Maldives Elections To Test President's Anti-India Policy Amid Tensions

President Mohamed Muizzu, 45, won last September's presidential poll as a proxy for pro-China ex-president Abdulla Yameen.

This month, he awarded high-profile infra contracts to Chinese state-owned companies

Mali, Maldives:

The Maldives votes Sunday in a parliamentary election likely to test President Mohamed Muizzu's tilt towards China and away from India, the luxury tourism hotspot's traditional benefactor.

Primarily known as one of the most expensive holiday destinations in South Asia, with pristine white beaches and secluded resorts, the strategic Indian Ocean island nation has also become a geopolitical hotspot.

Global east-west shipping lanes pass the nation's chain of 1,192 tiny coral islands, stretching around 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator.

President Mohamed Muizzu, 45, won last September's presidential poll as a proxy for pro-China ex-president Abdulla Yameen, this week freed after a court set aside his 11-year jail term for corruption.

This month, he awarded high-profile infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned companies as campaigning for the parliamentary elections was in full swing.

His administration is also in the process of sending home a garrison of 89 Indian troops that operate reconnaissance aircraft gifted by New Delhi to patrol the vast maritime borders of the archipelago.

The current parliament, dominated by the pro-India Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of his immediate predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, has sought to stymie his efforts to realign the archipelago's diplomacy.

"Geopolitics is very much in the background as parties campaign for votes in Sunday's election," a senior aide of Muizzu told AFP, asking not to be named.

"He came to power on a promise to send back Indian troops and he is working on it. The parliament has not been cooperating with him since he came to power."

Since Muizzu came to office, lawmakers have blocked three of his nominees to the cabinet and refused some of his spending proposals.

Splits in all the main political parties, including Muizzu's People's National Congress (PNC), are expected to make it hard for any single party to win a majority.

But Muizzu's prospects this week received a fillip with the release of his mentor Yameen from house arrest this week.

A court in the capital Male ordered a retrial in the graft and money laundering cases that saw Yameen sent to prison after he lost a re-election bid in 2018.

Yameen had also backed closer alignment with Beijing while in power but his conviction left him unable to contest last year's presidential poll on his own.

He instead put forward Muizzu as a proxy, and after leaving the High Court on Thursday, Yameen vowed to continue the running anti-India campaign that helped his ally to victory.

Around 285,000 Maldivians are eligible to vote on Sunday, with results likely by early the next day.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)