Maldivian Voters Stemmed A Chaotic Trend


(MENAFN- NewsIn) By K

Colombo, April 23: The results of the April 21 Maldivian parliamentary elections
came a surprise to most observers. In view of the splits in the competing political parties and the absence of striking issues, many predicted a hung parliament.

Given President Mohamed Muizzu's political inexperience, there were doubts about his ability to manage a divided parliament. The new anti-defection law that he had ratified would have prevented him from adding strength to his Peoples' National Congress (PNC). Policy and administrative paralysis seemed to be on the cards for the Maldives.

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It was in the midst of this grim scenario that the Maldivian voters returned a verdict strengthening the hands of the beleaguered President Muizzu.

Interim results indicated that the PNC alone had secured 66 out of the 93 seats up for grabs. Combined with the victory of 2 Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) candidates, 1 Maldives National Party (MNP) candidate, 1 Jumhoori Party (JP) candidate and 4 independent candidates endorsed by the PNC, Muizzu's alliance has a super majority with a total of 74 seats.

Former President Abdulla Yameen, who had broken with Muizzu to form the Peoples' National Front (PNF), drew a blank. The Maldivian Democratic
Party (MDP), which had a majority in parliament before April 21 and was a constant headache for Muizzu, also performed very poorly getting only 12 seats. The Democrats, a breakaway group of the MDP led by former President Mohamed Nasheed, came a cropper. The Islamic Adhaalath Party also drew a blank.

Yearning for Stability

Political
watchers in Male interpreted the decisive result as an indication of the Maldivians' yearning for stability in a scenario of utter confusion and uncertainty.

Earlier, they had tried out Abdulla Yameen as President from 2013 to 2018 and Ibrahim Solih from 2018 to 2023. But both had failed to satisfy the population. Yameen brought in Chinese investments, but was dictatorial jailing all his opponents. He also alienated regional power, India, with his marked anti-India stance.

Ibrahim Solih's regime was colourless. Besides, it was too obsequious to India. Former President Nasheed, the leader of the Democrats, had virtually opted out of politics when he took up an assignment in a global climate change organization.

With President Muizzu destined to be power till October 2028, having been elected in October 2023, he was the only“given” in Maldivian politics. According to observers, people decided to back him and give him a fair chance to prove himself.

It was also thought that the President should get a parliament which will help and not hinder him. A hostile parliament could upset governance. A case in point was the MDP's call for the impeachment of Muizzu when he was just two months into office. This call was considered highly undemocratic and wantonly disruptive.

Muizzu Policies

Indicating the direction he would take following his party's victory in the parliamentary elections
, President Muizzu said that the Maldivians have shown to the world that they wished to exercise autonomy in making decisions for their country.

“We are a proud nation that loves sovereignty and freedom. We have shown this to the international community as well,” Muizzu told his party workers. The results underscored the fact that the Maldivians did not like foreign coercion.

The elections
' outcome is also proof that the Maldivians want to uphold and sustain the Islamic faith. Islamic values would shape the country's future, Muizzu added.

“I want to tell our Minister
s and government
leaders that they are now going to have to make do without sleep. I am serious. I am determined to bring about the development the people want,” the President said.

“With all due respect, I call upon all political leaders and all parties to move forward and stand united despite political ideologies to bring development to the nation,” he said, adding,“If we move forward in unity, it will bring joy and contentment to all.”

Impact on China

The strengthening of the hands of President Muizzu would certainly be of help to China, with which Muizzu had signed 20 MOUs, including one for“strategic partnership” for five years and for the joint development of the Blue Economy, that raised concerns in India.

China is executing massive infrastructure projects in the Maldives costing millions of dollars. In the meanwhile, in a report dated October 2023, the World Bank had warned that further cosying up to China could spell trouble for the Maldives since the US$ 1.37 billion it already owed to Beijing represented 20% of its total public debt.

China is the Maldives' biggest bilateral creditor, ahead of Saudi Arabia and India, to which it owes US $ 124m and US$ 123m, respectively, the Bank said.

Impact on India

Though Muizzu began his innings as President as an anti-India leader, calling for the removal of Indian troops
manning a medical air evacuation service with Indian aircraft, he finally agreed to the Indian suggestion that Indian civilians should man the service. After some of his ministers made nasty remarks against Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi, and Indian tourists boycotted the Maldives, Muizzu climbed down and said that he would hold road shows in India to attract Indian tourists.

Muizzu also asked India to continue its development projects in the Maldives, though earlier he said he would review all the“hundred” agreements with India. But the only decisive step he took was the cancellation of an agreement to conduct a hydrographic survey.

India responded favourably setting apart INR 770 crores (US$ 92 million) for the Maldives in the 2024-25 budget. On April 5, India allowed the export of certain quantities of essential commodities for the year 2024-25 at the request of the Maldives government
.

Balancing India and China

The Sino-Indian competition for the hand of the Maldivians is on in right earnest and is expected to continue. However, much depends on how President Muizzu handles the two countries.

While China is welcome in the Maldives, India cannot be wished away. Whether the Maldivians like or not, India is a neighbour and a regional power. India is also wary of China's entry into the Indian Ocean as a competitor.

Muizzu's post-election speeches in which the recurrent theme is safeguarding Maldivian sovereignty should make New Delhi sit up and listen to voices coming from the Maldives. It has to design its approach to the Maldives and Maldivians in such a way that they cease to look at India as an existential threat. Even attempts to do good must be moderated by an awareness that they could be misconstrued as a ploy to hide a different intent.

A fine-tuning of India's diplomacy
in the Maldives and South Asia as a whole is called for.

END

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