Who Is Ibrahim Mohamed Solih? Maldives Opposition Leader Scores Election Upset Over Autocratic Ruler Accused of Trying to Rig Election

The strongman ruler of the Maldives has accepted the country's election results after a shock victory by opposition figure Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

International rights groups had criticized President Abdulla Yameen for his clampdown on the media and the opposition in the country, which is a strategic point of influence for both India and China.

But contrary to expectations, Yameen, who has jailed opposition figures and raised fears that the vote would be rigged, has conceded defeat to Solih.

He said, "The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results from yesterday. Earlier today, I met with Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who the Maldivian electorate has chosen to be their next president. I have congratulated him," NDTV reported.

Solih, widely known as Ibu, had been calling for democratic reform in the country for years and was the joint presidential candidate for an opposition alliance that includes the Jumhooree Party, the Adhaalath Party and the Maldivian Democratic Party, which he has led since 2011.

Originally from the island of Hinnavaru, Solih is one of 13 children. He was first elected to the parliament in 1994 when he was 30. He is the first cousin of ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted in 2012 by Yameen, with whom he is extremely close, the Maldives Independent reported.

Nasheed tweeted, "You have done an extremely good service to not only to the people of Maldives, but also to freedom loving people everywhere. Democracy is a historical inevitability."

Around 89 percent of the country's 262,000-strong electorate turned out and Solih's supporters celebrated in the streets of the capital of Male after the result. Early results showed Solih with 58.3 percent of the vote, well ahead of Yameen's 41.7 percent.

"The message is loud and clear. The people of Maldives want change, peace and justice," Solih said, according to the BBC.

The country's foreign ministry said in a statement, "No major issues were reported in the vote counting process as well as with the voters list, which will affect the results."

India was the first nation to congratulate Solih on the result. Its Foreign Ministry said, "This election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives, but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law."