Maldivian President Muizzu's pro-China party secures 'super majority' in parliamentary polls

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Maldivian President Muizzu's pro-China party secures 'super majority' in parliamentary polls

Monday, 22 April 2024 | PTI | Male

Maldivian President Muizzu's pro-China party secures 'super majority' in parliamentary polls

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

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 is 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.

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.

A total of 368 candidates were in the fray, including 130 independent candidates, 10 candidates from Jumhoory Party (JP), 39 from The Democrats, Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) 4, Adhaalath Party (AP) 4, and Maldives National Party (MNP) 2 nominees.

About 40 in numbers -- 10.76 per cent -- of the candidates were women.

Provisional results have shown that only three women candidates secured seats out of the 93 constituencies of the 20th People's Majlis.

Fathimath Saudha from the ruling PNC won the Faafu Nilandhoo constituency, Asma Rasheed from the PNC won the Maafannu Medhu constituency, and Anara Naeem, an independent candidate, won the Kaafu Huraa constituency.

Saudha is a family member of Muizzu. Asma and Anara have previously served as MPs in the 18th People's Majlis.

With about 75 per cent of the eligible voters casting their ballots, Sunday's election saw a record-low voter turnout, provisional results suggested.

A total of 284,663 people were eligible to vote, but only 215,860 exercised their right.

The turnout was 81.32 per cent in the 2019 parliamentary elections, with 215,053 out of 264,446 eligible voters coming to vote.

Fayyaz Ismail, the opposition MDP Chairperson, congratulated the PNC for Sunday's success in parliamentary elections in a post on X: "Whilst today's result is disappointing this is a moment to reaffirm our commitment and work even closer with our communities."

"MDP's MPs will be ready to work with the government for the betterment of our democratic values and to hold it accountable as a responsible opposition," the former economic minister said.

MDP President and former foreign minister Abdulla Shahid said the party's MPs "will uphold the responsibility entrusted to you with utmost determination".

"We may not win every time. But today we can hold our heads high, and be proud of the work we did," Shahid added.

A total of 602 ballot boxes were set up in the Maldives and three other countries for the parliamentary election.

Polling stations were also open in 34 resorts, prisons, and other industrial islands.

The countries in which ballot boxes were placed for voting are Thiruvananthapuram in India, Colombo in Sri Lanka and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

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.

Besides, since Muizzu came to office, lawmakers have blocked three of his nominees to the cabinet.

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.

China and the Maldives also signed a defence cooperation agreement and several other infrastructure development projects.

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.

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