Maldives presidential polls: Pro-Beijing candidate wins elections overshadowed by India & China

NEW DELHI: Opposition candidate Mohamed Muizzu has won the Maldives presidential elections, securing more than 53% of the vote after almost all the ballots were counted.
Interestingly, the election was a virtual referendum on which regional power — India or China — will have the biggest influence in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.
The pro-India incumbent, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, was trailing Mohamed Muizzu, the mayor of the capital, Malé City, who has pushed for stronger ties with China.
When neither of the candidates managed a first-round victory with half the vote early this month, the race was pushed into a runoff.
According to local media, President Mohamed Solih received 46% of the vote while Muiz was ahead by over 17,000 votes.
Muiz’s victory will be a boost for China, which has been eyeing close ties with the strategic island nation amid India’s increasing influence.
India and China have a long history of vying for influence among their neighboring countries.
China initially held the upper hand due to its substantial financial resources and the development loans it provided through its Belt and Road Initiative. However, in recent years, India has become more assertive in the region.
In the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s economic downturn last year, New Delhi stepped in with billions of dollars in assistance.
Additionally, India has expanded its presence and undertaken various projects in the Maldives since President Solih assumed office in 2018, marking the end of the pro-Beijing administration of Abdulla Yameen, who is currently incarcerated for corruption charges.
Solih, who was elected in 2018, had been battling allegations by Muiz that he had allowed India an unchecked presence in the country.
Muiz’s party, the People’s National Congress, is viewed as “heavily pro-China”.
He also promised that if he won the presidency, he would remove Indian troops from the Maldives and balance the country’s trade relations, which he said were heavily in India’s favor.
The Maldives is made up of 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean located by the main shipping route between the East and the West.
(With inputs from agencies)

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