The Maldives has sworn in their new president, a day after his runoff victory ended a long election dispute that threatened the country with the return of authoritarian rule.

Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, widely known as Abdulla Yameen, was inaugurated on Sunday as he secured 51.4 percent of the vote, winning over the country's first democratically elected leader Mohamed Nasheed, who won 48.6 percent of ballots cast.

Nasheed conceded the election on Saturday and said he would not challenge the results.

"This is a very happy day for all of us. We now have an elected president," he said. "We don't want to go to the courts."

The new president, the brother of the Maldive's former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, asked the international community on Saturday to respect the choice of the Maldivians.

"It's now time to bring peace, the people have decided. It's now time for development," Yameen said.

"We will very clearly show to the Maldivian public as well as to the international community here comes a government that they can reckon with, they can trust, as well as here is a government that is able to bring in civility to governance." 

International concerns

The Maldives had failed to elect a president in three attempts since September, raising international concerns that the fledgling democracy may slip back into authoritarian rule.

Nasheed, who resigned last year amid protests, was the leading vote-getter in the November 9 first round, with 47 percent to Yameen's 30 percent, but a runoff was required because no candidate won the required 50 percent.

Yameen improved on his first-round performance by courting supporters of tourist resort owner Qasim Ibrahim, who finished third in the first round with 23 percent of the vote.

Ibrahim drew his support from conservative Muslims who accused Nasheed of undermining Islam because of his friendly relations with Israel and Western nations.

Nasheed was the clear pre-election favorite, but lost his momentum amid long delays to complete the election.

Nasheed was elected in 2008, but resigned midway through his term last year after weeks of public protests and declining support from the military and police over his decision to detain a senior judge whom he perceived to be biased.

He later said he was ousted in a coup, but an inquiry commission rejected the allegation.

The Maldives is a predominantly Muslim nation of 350,000 people. About 240,000 people were eligible to vote on Saturday, and turnout was more than 91 percent.

Source: Agencies