Page last updated at 08:03 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

New Maldives president sworn in

Mohamed Nasheed greets supporters in Male, Maldives (28/10/2008)

The new president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has been sworn in at a ceremony in the capital, Male.

Mr Nasheed beat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years, to win the country's first democratic polls.

In his inaugural speech, Mr Nasheed promised to strengthen democracy and to combat poverty and drug abuse.

But he made no mention of his idea of saving the people of the Indian Ocean archipelago from rising sea levels by buying them a new homeland.

The Maldives is the lowest nation in the world. Its highest land is little more than two metres above sea level.

The United Nations estimates that sea levels may rise globally by nearly 60 centimetres this century.

Earlier, Mr Nasheed had said the gradual rise in sea levels caused by global warming meant the islanders may eventually be forced to resettle elsewhere.

The Maldives comprise more than 1,000 islands and coral atolls surrounded by the clear waters of the Indian Ocean.


Mr Nasheed took his oath of office at a ceremony televised live from a convention centre in Male.

The new president had been imprisoned more than 20 times by Mr Gayoom.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
Mr Gayoom thanked the people for allowing him to rule for 30 years

In the first multi-party elections held in the Maldives, President Gayoom won the first round last month, but failed to secure the 50% needed for outright victory.

A run-off was held on 28 October which was won by Mr Nasheed.

Mr Nasheed said his victory over Mr Gayoom - Asia's longest-serving leader - showed the people of the Maldives were embracing the future.

The election was the culmination of reforms in the Indian Ocean islands that followed pro-democracy street protests and international pressure.

Mr Gayoom, 71, had ruled the Maldives uncontested since 1978, elected back into office six times by referendums.

Mr Gayoom's supporters had credited him with overseeing an economic expansion fuelled by tourism.

But Mr Gayoom's critics accused him of being dictatorial.

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