There was a sense of history in the air. A sense of hope to celebrate a new beginning.
The military brass band played national songs as the national stadium in Malé filled up for the swearing-in of the seventh president of the Maldives.
Many people queued up hours before the ceremony began at 5pm. State officials, coalition figures, and councillors clad in the yellow of the Maldivian Democratic Party looked for their designated chairs across the football field. Many more were seated on the northern and eastern stands.
It was the largest inauguration ceremony in the 50-year history of the republic. Invitations were sent out to more than 10,000 people.
Security was heightened with more than 300 foreign dignitaries from 46 countries attending. The main roads of the capital were closed off for their motorcades. Soldiers patrolled both inside and outside the stadium and some were stationed on top of nearby buildings.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the most prominent guest and only head of state, arrived half an hour after he landed at the nearby airport island.
He was welcomed by former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Mohamed Nasheed and Dr Mohamed Waheed.
The crowd of MDP supporters in the stands erupted in cheers as Modi greeted Nasheed with an extended embrace.
The stage was set up to resemble the parliament floor. Some 66 MPs from the 85-member People’s Majlis were present.
The president and vice president-elect with their wives were greeted and escorted on the red carpet by Speaker Gasim Ibrahim. There was warm applause for the smiling first couple.
The audience stood up in reverential respect as Solih was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi.
“I, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, of Nooraneeage, Faadhippolhu Hinnavaru, do swear in the name of Almighty Allah that I will respect the religion of Islam, that I will uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives and the fundamental rights of the Maldivian citizens, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic of Maldives, and will discharge the duties and responsibilities of the office of President honestly and faithfully in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Maldives.”
In a well-received inaugural address, an emphatic pledge to reform the judiciary drew the loudest cheers. It would be one of the “highest priorities” of the new administration, the president vowed, reiterating key pledges made during the campaign.
The Maldivian people have a second chance to realise the high hopes invested in the democratic constitution of 2008, President Solih observed.
Photos for the Maldives Independent by Ashwa Faheem.