Maldives election 2024 today: President Mohamed Muizzu's litmus test amid anti-India policy | World News - Hindustan Times

Maldives election 2024 today: President Mohamed Muizzu's litmus test amid anti-India policy

Apr 21, 2024 01:28 PM IST

According to media reports, 368 candidates are contesting for 93 seats in this parliamentary election.

The Maldives is on Sunday voting in the fourth multi-party parliamentary election, which is seen as a litmus test for ‘pro-China’ President Mohamed Muizzu's anti-India policies.

Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu (AFP)
Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu (AFP)

Read here: Maldives' opposition parties demand President Mohamed Muizzu's impeachment over alleged corruption

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According to media reports, 368 candidates are contesting on 93 seats in the parliamentary election in an atmosphere that has been vitiated by the trading of charges between the main opposition the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC). Around 285,000 Maldivians are eligible to vote on Sunday, with results likely by early o Monday.

The archipelago nation, primarily known as one of the most expensive holiday destinations in South Asia, with pristine white beaches, became a geopolitical hotspot due to the recent developments from expelling the Indian military troops to awarding high-profile infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned companies.

Muizzu, who won last year's presidential election as a proxy for pro-China ex-president Abdulla Yameen, who was recently released after a court set aside his 11-year jail term in a corruption case, has an attitude tilting towards China and moving away from India.

After assuming the charge, Muizzu has taken several decisions such as awarding high-profile infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned companies, showing his alignment towards China.

In January, Muizzu asked India to withdraw all Indian military personnel deployed in the Indian Ocean archipelago. Following high-level meetings between the two countries, India had agreed to remove their troops from Maldives under the condition that a number of their civilians equivalent to the military presence are brought to operate the aircraft.

"Geopolitics is very much in the background as parties campaign for votes in Sunday's election," a senior aide of Muizzu told news agency AFP. "He came to power on a promise to send back Indian troops and he is working on it. The parliament has not been cooperating with him since he came to power," he added.

How are these elections important for India?

The current parliament, dominated by the pro-India Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of ex-president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, has sought to stymie his efforts to realign the archipelago's diplomacy and improve ties with the neighbouring nations including India, according to a report by Times of India.

India anticipates that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the main opposition and pro-India faction, will secure a majority, facilitating robust legislative scrutiny over executive actions.

India-Maldives conflict:

A major row erupted this year after some Maldivian leaders made derogatory comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and mocked his visit to Lakshadweep, triggering the diplomatic relations between the two nations. India strongly raised the matter with Male and the island nation's top opposition leaders slammed the ruling establishment over the row. In a now-deleted post, Maldivian leader Mariyam Shiuna made a mocking and disrespectful reference to PM Modi.

Indians sharply reacted to the remarks by vowing to boycott travel to the Maldives. Netizens fervidly promoted trends, including #exploreindianislands and #BoycottMaldives. As a result, the number of tourists from India to the Maldives declined by almost 40 per cent during the January-March 2024 period compared to the data from the same period in 2023, according to Maldives' Ministry of Tourism monthly report. However, at the same time, the total number of tourists from China shot up by over 200 per cent.

However, the Maldivian government issued a statement distancing itself from the derogatory remarks made by the leaders. It also took action by suspending three ministers who made the remarks.

(With inputs from agencies)

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