Opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, a longtime but little-known lawmaker in the Maldives, declared victory early Monday in a contentious election widely seen as a referendum on the island nation's young democracy.
He added: "The message is loud and clear: the people of Maldives want change, peace and justice".
"I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power", he said on television.
He has already called on President Abdulla Yameen to "accept the will of the people". Observers also anxious the incumbent would dispute the result.
Yameen's campaign did not concede the race, and no one from the campaign could immediately be reached for comment.
Results from Sunday's election released by the electoral commission showed Yameen on 41.7 percent of the vote, well behind Solih on 58.3 percent - the only other name on ballot papers.
The country has been in political turmoil since February, when Yameen imposed a state of emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader and former president. It was reported that he had jailed his political rivals including his half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ran the country for 30 years. Both the United States and UN had threatened sanctions if the poll was an unfair one.
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Yameen, who was widely tipped to retain power, has imprisoned or forced into exile nearly all of his main rivals.
In February Yameen imposed a 45-day state of emergency, alarming the worldwide community, in what was seen as an attempt by his opponents in parliament to impeach him.
In this picture taken on September 23, 2018 presidential candidate Mohamed Solih addresses the media at the campaign headquarters in Male, the capital of the Maldives. The reason why many raised doubts whether if the elections would be free and fair.
The heavily-criticised election will be closely watched by India and China as President Abdulla Yameen has embraced Beijing, while his opponent, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, is seen as leaning towards New Delhi and the West, according to the BBC.
Fisheries minister Mohamed Shainee's tweet conceding the elections is the first response from the government.
The polls close at 4 p.m. and results are expected after 10 p.m., election officials have said.
What's at stake in the small South Asian country came into sharp focus again on Saturday, when police in Male, the capital, raided Solih's main campaign office, citing police intelligence that the office was being used to organise vote-buying, according to a copy of a police warrant obtained by The Associated Press. "Despite the repressive environment, the people have spoken their minds", said Ahmed Tholal, a former member of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and a project coordinator at the nonprofit watchdog Transparency Maldives.
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