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Maldives: Muizzu extends grip on power as 6 independents join party after landslide win in parliamentary polls

Muizzu's party won 66 of 93 seats in the parliament in Sunday's election and with the entry of the independent candidates, the People's National Congress-led coalition now has a "supermajority" with 78 seats. The elections were closely watched by India and China amid geopolitical tensions.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Male Published on: April 24, 2024 19:31 IST
Mohamed Muizzu, Maldives parliamentary elections
Image Source : REUTERS Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu after his party's landslide win in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Male: After a landslide win in the recent parliamentary elections, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu and his People's National Congress further consolidated their grip on power as six independent candidates, who were elected on Sunday, joined the ruling party, according to officials on Wednesday. The pro-China leader's party won a landslide 66 out of 93 seats in parliament and its coalition parties won three seats, while the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won only 15 seats.

The six independent members joined the PNC at a function attended by President Muizzu, who is also the President of the party. With the addition of the six independents, the PNC-led coalition now has the “super majority” in parliament with 78 seats, much more than two-thirds (63 seats) in the People's Majlis. The parliamentary election was the first test for Muizzu amid his strong pivot to China.

The PNC's supermajority in the parliamentary elections is now being seen as a strong endorsement of his pro-Beijing foreign policy, as both India and China closely watched the outcome of the polls in the strategically-located archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean. The MP-elects, who signed with PNC on Tuesday include former party members who lost the PNC primaries held in January. 

New lawmakers to be sworn in on May 28

Hassan Zareer, the incumbent Mathiveri MP, won the 2019 elections on a ticket from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). But he, along with 13 other lawmakers from MDP, defected to PNC after MDP leader and ex-President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih lost re-election. Zareer ran for re-election as an independent candidate, but with the government’s backing.

The move by the six independent MP-elects to join PNC comes after the MDP-majority Parliament passed an anti-defection bill on April 1. The bill, which stipulates that parliamentarians will lose their seat for floor crossing, was signed into law by Muizzu last week. The new lawmakers to the 20th parliamentary assembly will be sworn in on May 28.

A majority in Parliament would mean that Muizzu’s party has control not just over lawmaking but also over the legislature which ratifies the laws, which till now had two opposing coalitions and saw several instances of a conflict between the government and the legislature.

What did the elections mean for India?

Muizzu, 45, known for his pro-China leanings, has said that he wants to reduce India's influence in his country and rode on an "India Out" election campaign. His latest victory will ease Muizzu to pass bills that can benefit China.  The election in the Maldives also came amidst deteriorating ties between the archipelago nation and India since Muizzu came to power.

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 remark was seen as a swipe at India.

India was also the primary provider of maritime security for Maldives, which is expected to change under Muizzu's regime now. This was hinted at when 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.

(with inputs from PTI)

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


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