Maldives Votes Today: What’s At Stake For India As Prez Mohamed Muizzu Vying For 2nd Term?

New Delhi: The archipelago nation, Maldives is voting in the fourth multi-party parliamentary election on Sunday. The ballot is crucial for President Mohamed Muizzu, who won last year’s presidential election as a proxy for pro-China ex-president Abdulla Yameen.   

Except for Maldivians, the parliamentary polls are being closely monitored by both India and China as they compete for influence in the Indian Ocean. Muizzu’s election as president last year intensified the competition between the two nations. Recently, the new leader initiated his ‘pro-China’ efforts by sending away Indian military forces and giving big construction projects to Chinese government-run companies. 

Why Is This Election Important For India? 

As per a report by the Associated Press, Muizzu’s election campaign theme for president was “India out.” He has on occasion accused his predecessor of compromising national sovereignty by giving India too much influence in the region. 

However, the current parliament, mostly controlled by the pro-India Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by former president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, has been trying to block his attempts to change the country’s diplomatic stance and enhance relations with neighbouring nations like India, as per reports. 

It will be difficult for Muizzu to get a majority in Parliament because more parties have entered the contest and some of his supporters have fallen out, according to AP. 

What Is The Political Scenario?  

There are 368 candidates vying for 93 seats in Parliament from six political parties and independent organisations. After accounting for population growth, that is six more seats than in the previous Parliament.   

There were about 284,000 eligible voters, and late on Sunday, results are anticipated to be released.  

India-Maldives Conflict  

This year’s major controversy began when a few Maldivian leaders made remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep. This caused tension between India and the Maldives. India complained strongly to the Maldives about it, and even opposition leaders in the Maldives criticised the government for the situation. A Maldivian leader, Mariyam Shiuna, posted disrespectful comments about PM Modi but later deleted them.  

Indians found these developments disrespectful, which further led to the downfall in the number of Indian tourists going to the Maldives. The number declined by almost 40% from January to March 2024 compared to the same time in 2023. However, the number of tourists from China increased a lot during the same period.  

Even though the Maldivian government said it didn’t support the disrespectful comments, it suspended three ministers who had made the remarks.