Maldives votes in election key to its India, China relations

By Thomson Reuters Apr 21, 2024 | 2:20 AM

By Mohamed Junayd

MALE (Reuters) – Voters in the Maldives were flocking to the polls on Sunday in a parliamentary election that may determine whether the Indian Ocean island nation continues its shift toward China and away from its longstanding ties with India.

Beijing and New Delhi have both wooed the Maldives as the two giants vie for influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

President Mohamad Muizzu, elected last year, has pledged to end the country’s “India First” policy, putting relations under strain. His government has asked dozens of locally based Indian military personnel to leave in a move critics warn could see the Maldives shift closer to China.

Muizzu’s post as president is not affected by Sunday’s vote.

His ruling People’s National Congress has asked voters to elect a majority that will swiftly fulfil his presidential campaign pledges.

Opposition parties, criticising Muizzu’s government on areas including foreign policy and the economy, are seeking a majority that can hold his government accountable.

More than 284,000 people are expected to choose the 93 members of parliament for the next five years. Early voting was brisk in the capital Male, with some 600 polling stations.

In addition to Muizzu’s party, the 368 candidates are from the main opposition the Maldivian Democratic Party, smaller parties and independents.

Results for the elections will be tabulated immediately after polls close, with the makeup of the next parliament expected to be clear late on Sunday.

(Reporting by Mohadmed Junayd; Writing by Uditha Jayasinghe; Editing by William Mallard)