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Maldives Presidential Polls: Continuity or Change

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

The presidential polls in Maldives - the atoll nation a much sought after area of influence in the Indian Ocean Region by regional competitors - India and China- are entering the cliff's edge, so to say, as the second round runoff will take place on September 30th. [Corrected from Original]

With no candidate winning 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, all eyes are now on the two who had the largest vote share in the first. Maldives Democratic Party [MDP] candidate incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih secured 39 per cent of the votes in the first round held on September 9th, placing him second.

The most votes were gained by the opposition PPM-PNC coalition's candidate, Dr. Mohamed Muizzu with 46 percent of the votes.

The Democrats, a breakaway party from MDP led by speaker Mohammed Nasheed is set to be a kingmaker as it was placed third, with 7.18 percent of votes becoming the Party to form a coalition for the runoff. Other candidates won marginal votes of 2 % and below.

Democrats are dictating terms for a coalition with ruling MDP, which are separate for the two parties. For the MDP, an agreement to hold a constitutional referendum before September 28th is a pre-condition. The opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) needs to sign a document which specifies the share of The Democrats in forming a government.

MDP's Chairperson, Fayyaz Ismail, said the Party has informed The Democrats of the Party's agreement to hold a constitutional referendum after this year's presidential elections.

Opposition PPM-PNC coalition has refused the condition and imprisoned PPM's leader, former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has refused to meet the Democrats representative. It is not clear if the Party is willing to sign an agreement with the Democrats for a share in the government.

Options Now

Purely on the basis of statistics, given the vote percentages, in case the Democrats swing to support the PPM-MNC candidate Dr Muizzu he may gain a substantial advantage as with 46 percent vote share he may cross the 50 % mark with 7 % shares of the Democrats.

For incumbent President Solih support of the Democrats may not be enough as he would reach only the 46 percent mark. The MDP is thus reaching out to other parties as the JP for support with a 2 percent vote block. MDP also hopes that the turnout will be higher so that more voters come out to exercise their franchise.

Geopolitical Implications

Given that the MDP has the backing of India and the PPM–MNC of China, the outcome of the Presidential polls will also determine the advantage gained by the contesting powers in a critical pocket of the Indian Ocean.

New Delhi and Beijing are likely to be undertaking substantial efforts to win support for their respective preferences, Solih and Muizzu, respectively.

Solih's win will be seen as continuity while Muizzu's change.


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