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Maldives Elections 2024: India-China Rivalry Takes Center Stage in Parliamentary Polls

Maldives Elections 2024

Maldives to hold election polls in the shadow of China-India rivalry

The Maldives is gearing up for parliamentary elections that will test President Mohamed Muizzu’s pro-China stance and strain relations with India. The strategic Indian Ocean nation has become a geopolitical hotspot due to its location on key global waterways.

Muizzu, who won last year’s election with Chinese support, is facing opposition from lawmakers and parties aligned with India. The upcoming elections will be crucial in determining the country’s diplomatic direction, with all parties vying for votes in a highly contested political landscape.

Key Concepts

  • President Muizzu’s approach to China and India is being tested in the Maldives parliamentary elections.
  • The Maldives has become a geopolitical flashpoint due to its strategic location in the Indian Ocean.
  • President Muizzu is awarding infrastructure contracts to Chinese companies and sending home Indian soldiers.
  • The current parliament, led by the pro-India Maldives Democratic Party, is trying to counter Muizzu’s diplomatic shift.
  • Geopolitics will play a significant role in the upcoming elections in the Maldives.
  • President Muizzu has received support from his mentor, Yameen, who is backing his anti-India campaign.
  • The election results are expected to be announced soon after the voting takes place.

The Maldives holds parliamentary elections on Sunday that are likely to test President Mohamed Muizzu’s approach to India and China, the luxury tourism hotspot’s traditional benefactors.

Known primarily as one of South Asia’s most expensive holiday destinations, with its pristine white beaches and secluded resorts, the strategic Indian Ocean island nation has also become a geopolitical flashpoint.

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The global east-west waterway passes through the country’s chain of 1,192 small coral islands, stretching about 800 kilometers (500 miles) across the equator.

President Muizzu, 45, won last September’s presidential election as a surrogate for pro-China former President Abdulla Yameen. Yameen was released this week after a court overturned an 11-year prison sentence for corruption.

This month, as campaigning for parliamentary elections got underway, he awarded high-profile infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned companies.

His government is also sending home a garrison of 89 Indian soldiers who patrol the archipelago’s vast maritime border using surveillance planes gifted by New Delhi.

The current parliament, dominated by the pro-India Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) of his predecessor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, has sought to stymie his efforts to refocus the islands’ diplomacy.

“In Sunday’s election, all parties are vying for votes, and geopolitics is largely behind the scenes,” a senior Muizzu aide told the media on condition of anonymity.

“He came to power with a promise to repatriate Indian troops and he is working hard to achieve that. Parliament has not cooperated with him since he came to power.”

Since Muizzu took office, lawmakers have blocked three of his cabinet nominees and rejected some of his spending proposals.

Splits among all major parties, including Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC), are expected to make it difficult for any one party to win a majority.

But Muizzu’s prospects received a boost this week as his mentor, Yameen, was released from house arrest.

A court in the capital, Male, ordered a retrial in a corruption and money laundering case that saw Yameen jailed after losing his 2018 re-election bid.

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Yameen also supported a closer alliance with Beijing during his time in power, but his sentence prevented him from running alone in last year’s presidential election.

Instead, he proposed Muizzu as a proxy, and after leaving the high court on Thursday, Yameen vowed to continue the ongoing anti-India campaign and help his ally achieve victory.

About 285,000 Maldivians are eligible to vote on Sunday, with results likely to be announced early the next day.

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