Overcoming apprehensions, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated the Maldivian President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu on his election victory, and re-affirmed India’s commitment to strengthening its relations with Maldives.
Muizzu ran a campaign exploiting anti India sentiment in a section of the population as a candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People’s National Congress (PNC), coalition whose leader former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom who could not contest undergoing a sentence for corruption had in his tenure five years back shown a distinctly pro China tilt.
How will Muizzu respond to Prime Minister Modi's congratulatory message remains to be seen? Here is a review-
Preliminary results of the Second Round of Presidential elections in Maldives placed Dr Mohamed Muizzu in the lead with 53.8 percent of votes. MDP’s Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the incumbent president, trailed seven points behind, with 46.2 percent. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has congratulated the president-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu.
In a tweet, President Solih extended gratitude to the public for setting an example of democracy. “I also thank all members of MDP and AP who worked alongside me, and also thank all citizens who voted for me,” he said.
Dr Mohamen Muizzu in his first message after he won the 2023’s presidential election has appealed for the transfer of jailed opposition leader, former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom to home confinement from the incumbent president, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Muizzu also held a press conference amid the official announcement of the provisional results of the election by the Elections Commission (EC), where he delivered a message to the public. In his message, Muizzu described the hour of celebration as the time for all Maldivian citizens to come together and unite. Citing the nation to be bigger than every individual, the president-elect stressed the importance of prioritizing the nation than one’s self-interest as per Sun Online.
The success of the PPM PNC coalition came on the 74th Anniversary of the China’s Ambassador to Maldives Wang Lixin outlined in her message the developing partnership between the two countries. With return of the PPM PNC candidate, China has made a political comeback of sorts in Maldives after five years of the MDP rule as in the previous tenure of the PPM PNC government former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom had demonstrated a perceptive China tilt even though he had declared the country’s foreign policy as India First. While Muizzu will hold the office it is apparent that Gayyoom will be calling the shots.
Factors Impacting Election Outcome
Anti India propaganda seems to be one of the factors that gave a commanding lead gained by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People’s National Congress (PNC), Dr. Mohamed Muizzu as one of the factors that led Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), on September 27, three days prior to the second round runoff, to back the presidential candidate of the opposition shifting allegiance from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s presidential candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the incumbent president, in the first round of the presidential election.
MDA’s Deputy President Ali Mauroof said many members of the party’s national council urged a meeting after the Muizzu’s landslide victory in the first round, to President Solih. Mauroof cited the main concern the council members raised during the meeting as MDP’s lack of activities after the first round.
After the first round President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih hoped that the MDP and Democrats uniting will produce more votes than the PPM, ensuring a win in the presidential election. “If we look at the total votes, we will have more votes than PPM if MDP and Democrats unite. Even if we look at individual islands. There are few islands we cannot win a majority in if we unite. It means a landslide victory if we unite,” he said. “In Sha Allah, we will win this election,” he said. President Solih pointed out that the opposition was selling lies about his administration signing agreements that undermine Maldives’ independence and allowing foreign soldiers to operate in the country – that the people had begun to believe. “We failed to address this back then, because we did not believe that people who have run this country and hope to run this country again, would tell such blatant lies,” he said.
President Solih said that it was important that people learn the truth about such allegations. “There is no misleading, no lie in this. We have been governing this country in the best interest of this country and its people,” he said. However in the second round the incumbent President could win only two atolls, losing some that he had a lead in the first.
India Seeks a New Beginning
For India the choice is stark to reach out to Muizzu and his team or face bitter relations with the government that he will lead for the next five years giving space to China in strategically located Maldives. Towards this end Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated the Maldivian President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu on his election victory, and re-affirmed India’s commitment to strengthening its relations with Maldives which is a good beginning.