New Maldives leader vows stability after crisis, protests


* Yameen defeated favourite Nasheed with 51.4 pct of votes

* Vows to cut state spending, create jobs, opportunities

* Also calls for greater police powers, death penalty

By J.J. Robinson

MALE, Nov 17 (Reuters) - New Maldives President AbdullaYameen pledged on Sunday to end two years of political turmoilthat have brought violent protests to the holiday paradise, ashe was sworn in after defeating the favourite Mohamed Nasheed ina run-off.

The win was a victory for the political old guard, whorallied around Yameen to defeat Nasheed, the Maldives' firstdemocratically elected leader who was forced to resign last yearin what he said was a coup.

The election was the fourth attempt to choose a newpresident after three earlier ballots were either cancelled ordelayed, adding to tension between the rival political groupsand drawing international condemnation.

Yameen won 51.4 percent of the votes in Saturday's ballot,in which 91 percent of the 240,000-strong electorate took part.

"Rising out of political turmoil and establishing peace is abig responsibility as Maldives' president and head of state,"Yameen said in his inaugural speech, after he was sworn in at aspecial session of parliament.

Before his investiture, he also vowed to tackle the IndianOcean nation's high levels of debt which leaves the Maldivesvulnerable to external financial shocks.

"Today the Maldives is in a deep economic pit," he said.

"State debt is sky high. The state budget's expenses areextremely high. We have to prioritise by reducing stateexpenditure. I will start work very soon," he told a victorycelebration.

In one potentially divisive move, he encouraged greaterreligious conservatism in the Muslim country during hiscampaign, including a form of sharia law.

He also called for enhanced police powers and implementationof the death penalty, which exists in the Maldives but is notcarried out.


To supporters, 54-year-old Yameen is best qualified to steerthe Maldives to economic prosperity, after he headed severalstate-run firms before launching a career in politics.

To detractors his victory is a blow to democracy and a stepback towards autocratic rule.

Yameen is a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruledfor 30 years and is considered a dictator by rights groups andopponents. Key to his victory over Nasheed was the support ofresort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

Gasim, a finance minister under Gayoom, was eliminated inthe first round of voting on Nov. 9.

Yameen was sworn in before the country's Chief Justice AhmedFaiz, with both Gayoom and Nasheed sitting next to each other inthe audience.

Nasheed has pledged to carry on in opposition, and onSaturday urged supporters to honour the outcome of the vote.

"When you fall get up and run. When you lose, be courageousand in victory, be magnanimous," he said.

Yameen began his duties with a prayer, and vowed to providejobs for the young, increase wages of farmers and fishermen andshare state revenues fairly across the island archipelago.

Spelling out his foreign policy, Yameen said he would seekstronger ties with neighbouring countries and Arab states. Healso took what appeared to be a swipe at the United States andEuropean Union, who have been critical of the Maldives' handlingof the election.

"We will decide our own affairs," he said.

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