Pro-China party on course for landslide victory in Maldives election

Provisional results give President Mohamed Muizzu’s PNC party 66 of the 86 seats in parliament allowing him to move forward with pivot to China.

Officials prepare to start counting votes at a polling station in Male [Mohamed Afrah/AFP]Published On 22 Apr 202422 Apr 2024

The party of Maldives’s President Mohamed Muizzu’s party looks set to have won Sunday’s election in a landslide in an outcome likely to accelerate the country’s shift away from traditional ally India in favour of China.

Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC) secured 66 out of the 86 seats declared, according to provisional results from the Elections Commission of the Maldives on Sunday night.

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Local media said the party could win a super majority – three-quarters of all the seats in parliament.

The formal ratification of the results is expected to take a week and the new assembly will take office from early May.

Only three women candidates from the 41 who stood as candidates were elected, the local Mihaaru newspaper said, adding that the winners were all members of Muizzu’s PNC.

The vote was seen as a crucial test for Muizzu’s plan to press ahead with closer economic cooperation with China, after winning presidential elections last September.

The PNC and its allies had only eight seats in the outgoing parliament, which made it difficult for Muizzu to push ahead with his policies after winning the presidential election last September.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which had previously had a super-majority of its own, looked headed for a humiliating defeat with just a dozen seats.

The Maldives, a low-lying nation of some 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered some 800km (500 miles) across the equator, is one of the countries most vulnerable to sea level rises caused by the climate crisis.

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Male. Turnout was 72.9 percent [Mohamed Sharuhaan/AP]

Muizzu, a 45-year-old former construction minister, has promised that land reclamation and building islands higher will address the challenge, but environmentalists argue such a move could exacerbate flooding risks.

He has also pledged to end the country’s “India First” policy, putting relations with New Delhi under strain. His government has asked dozens of Indian military personnel who operate reconnaissance aircraft given by India to patrol the country’s borders to leave, a move critics say could accelerate the Maldives’ pivot towards China.

This month, as campaigning for the parliamentary elections was in full swing, Muizzu awarded high-profile infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned companies.

Opposition parties, who have criticised Muizzu’s government on areas including foreign policy and the economy, sought to hold his government accountable.

The PNC managed to grab key seats in former MDP strongholds including in the capital Male, Addu City and Kulhudhuffushi City in the north.

The Democrats, founded by former President Mohamed Nasheed after splitting with MDP in 2023, lost all seats the party contested while the new party of former President Abdulla Yameen, whose corruption conviction was overturned just days ago, also lost all the seats it contested, according to provisional results and media projections.

Turnout was 72.9 percent, according to the elections commission, lower than the 82 percent recorded during the last election in 2019.

Source: AFP