The incumbent President of the Maldives, Mohamed Solih, who had been striving to build relations with India, the traditional ally of the archipelago, was defeated on September 30 by the candidate with a pro-China posture, Mohamed Muyiz, who won the presidential elections in the Maldives.
According to the results presented by the Election Commission, Muyiz, who is 45 years old, won the election with 54.06 per cent of the vote. Meanwhile, outgoing President Solih, 61 years old, promptly acknowledged his defeat and offered “congratulations” to his challenger through the X platform.
Muyiz’s triumph may result in deeper ties with Beijing in an area that is becoming increasingly important strategically.
On Saturday, voters in the Maldives went to the polls to choose their next president in an election that also acted as a referendum on the archipelago’s desire to improve its relations with either China or India.
Solih ran for reelection after quickly mending relations with New Delhi following his victory over Abdullah Yameen, whose orientation was more towards China. Yameen had been Solih’s predecessor, and before Solih’s triumph, New Delhi and China had been at odds.
Throw India Out of Maldives
On the evening of October 2, the President-elect of the Maldives, Mohamed Muyiz, reiterated his adherence to his promise made during his election campaign to withdraw the Indian military soldiers stationed in the archipelago. He gave his word that he would get started on the process.
Muyiz spoke to the crowd of supporters who had assembled to celebrate his election victory. He told them he would not tolerate the deployment of a foreign army in the Maldives against the people’s will. He continued, saying, “The people have told us they do not want foreign military forces here.”
Outgoing President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, elected President in 2018, denied Mohamed Muyiz’s allegations that he allowed unmonitored Indian individuals in the country. Muyiz’s party, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), strongly aligns with China.
The main issue of Muyiz’s election campaign was the alleged threat to Maldives’ sovereignty by some Indian soldiers on one of the islands, part of the “Get India Out” strategy the party has pursued for years. Solih advocated an “India First” policy.
India vs. China
The Maldives occupy an ideal spot in the heart of the Indian Ocean, smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest shipping channels running from East to West.
Not only is the Maldives India’s immediate maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean region, but it also occupies a special place in India’s “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and “Neighbourhood First” strategy.
After his victory over Abdulla Yameen (2013-2018), who relied on China for diplomatic backing and loans for construction projects, Solih rapidly mended relations with New Delhi.
Former President Yameen was found guilty of corruption and money laundering in December of this past year and was sentenced to 11 years in jail for his actions. His party endorsed Muyiz’s candidature for president, and he was not permitted to compete for the presidency.
New Delhi, the United States, and its partners have been concerned about China’s expanding strategic influence in the Indian Ocean. Concerns were raised in New Delhi due to Yameen’s tight relationship with Beijing.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the “Quad,” is a strategic alliance consisting of the United States of America, Australia, and Japan. India is a member of this alliance.
Muyiz has promised to fulfil his promise to free Yameen from jail if he wins.