Muizzu Wins Maldives Presidency, Shifting Foreign Policy Focus

Muizzu Wins Maldives Presidency, Shifting Foreign Policy Focus
Posted on 01-10-2023

Mohamed Muizzu Elected President of Maldives in Close Contest

In recent news, the Maldives has elected Mohamed Muizzu as its new President, defeating the incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in a closely contested presidential election. This development is significant due to Muizzu's victory and the potential implications it may have on the Maldives' foreign policy, particularly in relation to India and China.

Electoral System in Maldives:

The Maldives Parliament, known as Majlis or People's Majlis, operates as a unicameral body. It follows a first-past-the-post majority system for both parliamentary and council elections. The Majlis consists of 87 members, each directly elected for a five-year term from single-member constituencies. The President of the Maldives is elected using a two-round system, with a runoff held if no candidate secures more than 50% of the votes.

In the 2023 Maldives election, there were eight candidates competing in the first round, which is notable given the country's population of approximately 5.2 lakh people. Out of the 2.8 lakh eligible voters, about 1.6 lakh are members of various political parties.

System of Executive Presidency in Maldives:

The Maldives has operated under an Executive Presidency system since 1968. Initially, it followed a single-party system until 2008 when political reforms were introduced. During this period, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom held power for an astonishing 30 years, suppressing protests and overcoming a coup attempt with India's assistance in 1988. The transition to a multi-party system occurred in 2008 when a new Constitution was adopted, paving the way for presidential elections every five years.

Maldives' Presidents and India:

India's engagement with Maldivian politics has had its ups and downs. While India had a close working relationship with Abdul Gayoom for three decades, the relationship became strained under President Yameen, who pursued closer ties with China, including participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative.

However, when Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the 2018 elections, India welcomed the development, and Prime Minister Modi attended Solih's swearing-in ceremony. India has been involved in various infrastructure projects in the Maldives, reflecting its interest in maintaining good relations.

News Summary: Presidential Election in Maldives:

In the second round of the presidential election, Mohamed Muizzu secured about 54% of the vote, defeating incumbent President Solih, who had pursued a pro-India policy. Muizzu's victory could potentially signal a shift in the Maldives' foreign policy, as he is supported by former President Abdulla Yameen, known for his pro-China stance and the "India out" campaign.

However, it is important to note that observers within the Maldives believe that Muizzu is unlikely to abruptly sever ties with India. Instead, he is expected to balance relations with both India and China. India hopes for the continuation of its various infrastructure projects in the Maldives, which have seen significant investment in recent years, totaling over Rs 1,100 crore between 2018 and 2022.

This election outcome has raised questions about the future direction of the Maldives' foreign policy, particularly in the context of its relationships with India and China.

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