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Maldives: Muizzu's pro-China party claims landslide victory

April 21, 2024

The vote was seen as a referendum on President Mohamad Muizzu's pledge to abandon the country's "India First" policy for closer ties with China. Electoral authorities reported a turnout higher than 73%.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu speaking to the press on election day
President Mohamed Muizzu's party made major gains at Sunday's parliamentary electionImage: Mohamed Afrah/AFP/Getty Images

The party of Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu claimed a landslide victory at Sunday's parliamentary election.

Muizzu's party, the People's National Congress, won 66 of the first 86 seats declared by the Elections Commission of the Maldives — enough for a super-majority in the 93-seat parliament.

Muizzu himself was not up for election but his party previously lacked enough seats in parliament to move ahead his agenda of abandoning the country's "India First" policy and reorienting toward China.

Shortly before polls closed, election chief Fuad Thaufeeq said turnout had reached 73% of the country's 284,663 eligible voters.

India and China watching closely

The election comes as India and China vie for influence in the low-lying Indian Ocean archipelago.

Muizzu recently asked dozens of Indian military officers to leave the country. Meanwhile, he has also announced ambitious land reclamation projects and other developments in partnership with China.

But prior to the vote on Sunday, parliament was controlled by the pro-India Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

MDP lawmakers previously blocked some of Muizzu's cabinet appointments and spending proposals.

Tracking the tense relationship between India and China

"Geopolitics is very much in the background as parties campaign for votes in Sunday's election," a senior aide of Muizzu told the AFP news agency on Sunday.

"He came to power on a promise to send back Indian troops and he is working on it. The parliament has not been cooperating with him since he came to power."

The diplomatic pivot has resulted in a number of controversies, including when Indian social media users called for a boycott of Maldives tourism after Maldivian deputy ministers were caught making derogatory statements about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his plan to promote tourism in the nearby Indian archipelago of Lakshadweep.

zc/lo (AFP, Reuters, AP)