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Road to Perdition: Pro-China Muizzu’s party wins landslide in the Maldives

Road to Perdition: Pro-China Muizzu’s party wins landslide in the Maldives

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Reminiscent of the Rajapakse clan’s election victories on an anti-India plank in Sri Lanka until 2019, which dragged their pro-China government and the island nation into a debt trap and economic disaster by 2022, the political outfit of President Mohamed Muizzu has also won a landslide win in the Maldives on Sunday.

According to early trends the media reported on Monday, the People’s National Congress (PNC) won 70 out of 93 seats to take full control of parliament. The outcome is likely to further accelerate the country’s shift away from traditional ally India in favor of China.

Boosted by three seats secured by allies, the results – if confirmed – hand the PNC a supermajority. Full official results are expected later on Monday.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who is seen as pro-India, won only 15 seats against 65 in the outgoing parliament, according to local news site Mihaaru.

Only three female candidates of the 41 who contested were elected, Mihaaru reported. All three are members of Muizzu’s PNC.
A formal ratification of the results is expected to take a week and the new assembly will take office from early May.

The vote was seen as a crucial test for Muizzu’s plan to press ahead with closer economic cooperation with China after winning the presidential election in September 2023.

The PNC and its allies had only eight seats in the outgoing parliament, which made it difficult for Muizzu to push ahead with his policies after winning the presidential election.

The MDP, which had previously a supermajority, looked set for a humiliating defeat with just a dozen seats even before the preliminary results were announced.

The Maldives, a low-lying nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered some 800 km across the equator, is one of the countries most vulnerable to sea level rises in the Indian Ocean caused by the climate crisis.

Muizzu, a 45-year-old former construction minister, has promised that land reclamation and building islands higher will address the challenge, but environmentalists argue such a move could exacerbate flooding risks.

He has also pledged to end the country’s “India first” policy, putting relations with New Delhi under strain. His government has asked dozens of Indian military personnel who operate reconnaissance aircraft given by India to patrol the country’s borders to leave, a move critics say could accelerate the Maldivian pivot towards China.

This month, as campaigning for the parliamentary elections was in full swing, Muizzu awarded high-profile infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned companies.

Opposition parties, which have been criticizing Muizzu’s government over its foreign policy and the handling of the economy, sought to hold it accountable in the elections.

However, the PNC managed to grab key seats in former MDP strongholds, including in the capital, Male, Addu City, and Kulhudhuffushi City in the north.

The Democrats, founded by former President Mohamed Nasheed after splitting with the MDP in 2023, lost all seats while the new party of former President Abdulla Yameen, whose conviction in corruption cases was overturned recently, also lost all the seats it contested, according to provisional results and media projections.

The country recorded a turnout of 72.9 percent, according to the elections commission, lower than the 82 percent during the last general elections held in 2019.


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