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Maldives: Opposition candidate wins presidential election

September 30, 2023

Opposition candidate Mohamed Muiz won the presidential run-off in the Maldives. His victory could push the Indian Ocean archipelago closer to China.

People's National Congress (PNC) candidate Mohamed Muizzu speaks during an election campaing rally in Thinadhoo on September 26, 2023, ahead of the second round of Maldives' presidential election
Mohamed Muiz promised to remove Indian troops from the MaldivesImage: Mohamed Afrah/AFP

Opposition candidate Mohamed Muiz won the Maldives presidential runoff on Saturday.

He secured more than 54% of the vote, beating incumbent Ibrahim Solih, who had 46% after almost all the ballots were counted.

Solih conceded defeat after an official count showed his pro-China rival Mohamed Muizzu in an unassailable lead. "Congratulations to president-elect Muizzu," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Solih prioritized building relations with India during his time in office in sharp contrast to the coalition supporting Muiz that launched an "India out" campaign.

Who is Mohamed Muiz?

An engineer, Muiz had served as the housing minister for seven years. He was mayor of Male, the capital, when he was chosen to run for president. Muiz's party, the People's National Congress, is viewed as heavily pro-China.

He also promised to remove Indian troops from the Maldives and rebalance the country's trade, which he said favored India.

His mentor, former President Abdulla Yameen, borrowed heavily from China for construction projects and spurned India. Muiz has vowed if elected to free Yameen, currently serving an 11-year sentence for corruption.

Solih was elected in 2018 on a wave of discontent with Yameen's increasingly autocratic rule, accusing him of pushing the country into a Chinese debt trap.

The Maldives is strategically vital in the middle of the Indian Ocean, astride one of the busiest east-west shipping lanes in the world.

dh/lo (AP, AFP, Reuters)