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Maldives Parliamentary Election begins- a test of strength for President Muizzu to choose India or China

According to local media reports, a total of 368 candidates, including candidates from Muizzu's Peoples National Congress (PNC), contesting the elections. Besides, 130 of these candidates are contesting as independents.

Written By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: April 21, 2024 13:25 IST
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu
Image Source : PRESIDENCYMV/X Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu

Maldives Parliamentary Election: The voting for the Maldives Parliamentary Elections 2024 began on Sunday, with a major foreign policy shift of the incumbent President Mohamed Muizzu in strife amid the ongoing tension with neighbouring India. According to the Maldives Election Commission, a total of 368 candidates, including contenders from Muizzu's Peoples National Congress (PNC), are contesting the elections.

Besides, 130 of these candidates are contesting as independents after a series of political crises among the parties in the archipelago nation. The Parliamentarians elected today will take their oath of office in May, forming the 20th People's Majlis.

Why India is closely watching the Maldives Parliamentary elections? 

Notably, this time, the elections, which are obviously closely under the radar of India and China amid the fact the country has recently become a geopolitical hotspot following Muizzu's foreign policy. Earlier, when the Presidency was under Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the relations between Maldives and India thrived, where the largest democratic country landed support for the island nation in the most challenging situation. During Solih's tenure, New Delhi had gained multiple developmental projects, and defence deals, while in exchange, India offered a major boost to Male's tourism sector.

However, during the Presidential election campaign last year, Muizzu, who was the opposition leader, started his political campaign, promoting the "India-out" narrative. He promised to remove Indian soldiers from the island nation and minimise dependency on New Delhi for other essentials. The anti-India campaign helped Muizzu to gain power in September last year. 

Subsequently, at least 75 Indian military personnel, who were stationed in the Maldives, asked to return to their homeland. As of writing this article, at least two batches of troops have returned to New Delhi, while the remaining are due to return by May 10 this year. Muizzu has taken steps to have civilians take over those activities. Interestingly, Muizzu won the Presidential elections but lacked a majority in the Parliament. This makes it tough for his party to pass any law. Therefore, the political pundits opine the Parliamentary elections would be a test of Muizzu's grip over the people and the policies that his party has imposed in the past seven months.

How did relations between India and Maldives nosedive?

But, the relations between the two nations, nosedived following three Maldivian deputy ministers made derogatory statements about Prime Minister Narendra Modi for raising the idea of promoting tourism in Lakshadweep, India's own string of islands similar to the Maldives. This triggered a massive backlash on social media, where Indian influencers and activists started a boycott campaign of Maldives tourism. 

According to recent Maldives government statistics, the number of Indian tourists has fallen, dropping that country from being the top source of foreign visitors to Number 6.

Earlier in January, Muizzu visited China, where he met President Xi Jinping. Muizzu negotiated an increase in the number of tourists and inbound flights from China. Also, he signed a defence deal with Beijing, benefiting China's industries. 

Also Raed: Maldives President Muizzu allegedly involved in corruption, claims leaked report

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