Maldives Presidential Elections: In the country where China is running ‘India out’ campaign, why are the presidential elections going to be important

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In early 2023, rifts formed within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), whose members were divided over support for President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former President Mohamed Nasheed, mainly over ideological differences.

Voting is going to be held in Maldives on 9th September. In such a situation, many developments have happened which are likely to have an impact on the important presidential elections. Some observers believe that these elections will be one of the most important elections in the country and will have an impact on geopolitics in the wider region.

Enmity between Solih and Nasheed is very old

In early 2023, rifts formed within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), whose members were divided over support for President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former President Mohamed Nasheed, mainly over ideological differences. In May this year, Nasheed, currently the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, the Maldivian legislative body, walked out on the MDP along with his loyalists and formed a new political party called the Democrats. With this, the Democrats have 12 members in parliament, more than the other opposition parties. Some analysts believe that the enmity between Solih and Nasheed is very old, while some others say that it is as fresh as 2021, when Nasheed returned to the Maldives after surviving an assassination attempt earlier that year. Nasheed’s allegiances began to change when he saw the Solih government withdraw its support of his views, in an attempt to placate the conservative Adalath Party, with which the government was in coalition. But perhaps the most significant development happened last month, when the Maldivian Supreme Court confirmed on August 6 that jailed former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom was being barred from running in the country’s presidential election. The decision was a major setback for the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The PPM had announced that Yameen would be its candidate for the upcoming elections, before he was convicted of corruption and money laundering in December last year for accepting bribes from a private company while he was president. Yameen’s appeal was rejected despite several attempts.

maldives election candidates

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is up against seven candidates in this year’s election. The Democrats have approved Ilyas Labib, currently the MP from Hulhudhoo, as their presidential candidate. After giving up trying to ensure Yameen’s eligibility to contest this year’s elections, the PPM nominated Mohamed Muizzoo, currently mayor of the country’s capital Male, as its presidential candidate, and the Jamhoori Party nominated Qasim Ibrahim as its candidate. The Maldivian National Party nominated its founding member and party president Mohamed Nazim, while three others are contesting as independent candidates. Independent candidates include Ahmed Faris Maumoon, chairman of the Maldivian Reform Movement Party, a political party formed in 2019 by his father and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Umar Naseer and Hasan Zameel are the other two independents.

Why are these elections important?

In the Maldives’ complex neighborhood in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, geopolitical dynamics in the archipelago nation’s north continue to dominate foreign policy discussions. But the country’s strategic location makes it an important player in regional affairs. Prior to the 2018 presidential elections, critics as well as international observers and foreign governments were concerned about the fairness of the election process. Sultana said that politically, it was very chaotic in 2018, which we are not seeing this time. The tenure of Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who served as the country’s leader from 2013–2018, was marked by allegations of widespread corruption and human rights violations. Another issue was the massive debt resulting from the leader’s strong preference for Chinese investment to build public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and airports.

Relations with India

Relations with India went through several tests during Yameen’s tenure, with New Delhi witnessing a significant deterioration in relations under Solih. But in 2020 Maldives-India relations were hit by the ‘India Out’ campaign, which initially started as grassroots protests in Maldives and later spread widely on social media platforms using the phrase along with related hashtags .

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