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Muizzu's party wins Maldives polls despite geopolitical turbulence: What does this mean for India?

Maldives voters handed President Mohamed Muizzu's party a landslide win at parliamentary elections, an outcome set to shift the Indian Ocean archipelago closer to China and away from traditional partner India.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: April 22, 2024 15:04 IST
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu while casting vote
Image Source : @PRESIDENCYMV/X Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu while casting a vote

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu's political party won 70 seats and secured a "super majority" in parliamentary elections held on Sunday. His victory was seen as a strong endorsement of his pro-China foreign policy, as both India and Beijing closely watched the battle amidst regional power dynamics in the archipelago nation.

According to local media reports, Muizzu-led People's National Congress (PNC) won 70 out of 93 seats in the People's Majlis in Sunday's polls and its coalition partners Maldives National Party (MNP) and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) won one and two seats, respectively, in the 20th People's Majlis with the power to amend the Constitution.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led by former president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was seen as a pro-India leader, held 65 seats in the previous parliament but won only 15 seats this time, Mihaaru, a news website, reported.

What does Maldives' Parliamentary election victory mean for Muizzu?

Muizzu, 45, known for his pro-China leanings, has said that he wants to reduce India's influence in his country. Local media described the PNC's landslide win in Sunday's election as a "super majority". In the 2019 elections, the then-ruling MDP won a super majority in Parliament, with 64 seats while the then-opposition PPM-PNC coalition won just eight.

The PNC won a high number of seats in Male, Addu, Fuvahmulah and Kulhudhuffushi. The Democrats, as well as Adhaalath Party, failed to win any seats at all. Official results for the parliamentary election in Maldives, which has a strategic location in the Indian Ocean, are expected later this week.

Read: Maldivian President Muizzu secures ‘supermajority’ in parliamentary polls: Report

Earlier, Muizzu faced hurdles in passing any bills in the Parliament as his party did not have a majority. But the latest victory will ease Muizzu to pass bills that can benefit China. 

The election is crucial for Muizzu, seen as a pro-China politician, as just a few days ahead of the polls, the opposition parties demanded a probe and impeachment of the president following a leaked report of his alleged corruption from 2018, a charge dismissed by him.

Why the Maldives election result is a major setback for India? 

The election in the Maldives also came amidst deteriorating ties between the archipelago nation and India since Muizzu, 45, assumed power in November last year. During last year's presidential election, he had maintained a strident anti-India stand.

While India was forced to withdraw most of its military personnel manning three aviation platforms in the country, Muizzu travelled to China in January and met top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping. 

On his return, he said, "We may be small, but this doesn't give them the licence to bully us." Although he did not name any country, his critical remark was seen as a swipe at India. China and the Maldives also signed a defence cooperation agreement and several other infrastructure development projects. Now, it is quite possible that New Delhi will not get any major future projects in Male.

Muizzu will allow China to expand its footprints in Maldives 

The Maldives, India’s key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), occupies a special place in its initiatives like 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the 'Neighbourhood First Policy' of the Indian government.

On the other hand, China is expanding its footprints in IOR through its 'debt trap' diplomacy and ‘String of Pearls' approach, a strategic initiative to create a network of military and commercial establishments in countries falling on the Indian Ocean.

In 2013, Maldives joined China's "Belt and Road" initiative to build ports and highways to expand trade — and China's influence — across Asia, Africa and Europe. Praising the Chinese projects in Male, Muizzu asserted that the BRI has taken bilateral relations to a new level.

India may lose Maldive's maritime security 

It is worth mentioning India is the primary provider of regional security in Maldives. Besides, New Delhi has been the major source of assistance for building the Maldives' maritime security capabilities amid the fact both countries share a 496.25 nautical mile maritime boundary. However, the latest development can snatch the capabilities from New Delhi. 

The same was hinted at by Muizzu in early March when he said that it would not renew an agreement with India to conduct hydrographic surveys and plans to acquire the facilities and machines required to do the exercise by itself.

Muizzu also announced that his country is working to establish a 24X7 monitoring system for the Maldivian waters this month to ensure control of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) despite its significantly large area. The Maldivian President, on multiple occasions, asserted he would enhance the defence cooperation agreement with China to provide free military assistance to foster "stronger" bilateral ties. 

Also Read: Maldives Parliamentary Election begins- a test of strength for President Muizzu's anti-India stand

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