President Muizzu's Party Wins Maldives Polls. What This Means For India

The Majlis was earlier dominated by Maldivian Democratic Party, led by Muizzu's pro-India predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih

President Muizzu's Party Wins Maldives Polls. What This Means For India

Maldives president Muizzu's party has scored a big win in the parliamentary elections

New Delhi:

In what could potentially harden Maldives president Mohamed Muizzu's pro-China stance, his party, the People's National Congress (PNC), has scored a thumping victory in the island nation's parliamentary election held yesterday.

The PNC, which contested 90 out of the 93 seats in Maldivian parliament Majlis, has won 66 out of the 86 seats for which results had been declared. This is more than a two-third majority in the House.

This result will enable President Muizzu, seen as anti-India, to push policies through the parliament. The seat tally is a cause for concern for New Delhi, which has been watching Male's tilt towards Beijing ever since President Muizzu was elected to the top post last year.

Why This Result Is Important

The Majlis exercises supervisory powers over the Maldivian executive and can hold up presidential decisions. Before this election, PNC was part of an alliance that was in the minority in the House. This meant that even though Muizzu was president, he did not have the political muscle to push through policies.

The Majlis was then dominated by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led by Muizzu's pro-India predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, with 41 members. MDP is headed for a humiliating defeat this time, with wins in just a dozen seats, news agency AFP has reported.

Earlier, while the MDP-dominated House blocked many of Muizzu's plans, members of the Opposition publicly flagged and criticised his anti-India position. A senior aide of Muizzu told news agency AFP earlier, "He (Muizzu) came to power on a promise to send back Indian troops, and he is working on it. The parliament has not been cooperating." This result changes that.

This election was seen as a test for Muizzu's plans to boost economic cooperation with China. Since taking over, the president has awarded major infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned companies. His party's electoral victory is set to clear most obstacles for him.

Male's Growing Tilt Towards Beijing

Ever since he was elected in the presidential election last year, Muizzu stepped up the island's outreach to Beijing, a development New Delhi has watched with concern. Soon after his election, Muizzu visited Beijing and met Chinese president Xi Jinping. On his return, he said, "We may be small, but this doesn't give them the licence to bully us." While he did not name any country, the remark was seen as a swipe at India.

President Muizzu also pushed for the exit of 80-odd Indian soldiers who were stationed on the island for humanitarian work.

Last month, however, Muizzu appeared to be extending an olive branch when he acknowledged India's financial support to Male and said "India will remain the Maldives' closest ally". At the close of last year, the Maldives owes India around $400.9 million.

India has so far adopted a restrained approach and downplayed the strained ties. Asked about New Delhi-Male relations after Muizzu's election, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar had said neighbours need each other. "History and geography are very powerful forces. There is no escape from that," he had said.

For China, expanding their role in the strategically-located Maldives is critical to their Indian Ocean push at a time when the region has become one of immense geopolitical significance.