Amidst strained ties with India, Maldivian Prez Muizzu faces tough Parliamentary elections on April 21

According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), on Sunday, April 21, the Maldives will hold its parliamentary election for 93 constituencies. Over 2,84,663 voters may cast ballots at 602 polling stations

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New Delhi: As India itself is preoccupied with its own Lok Sabha elections, little does anyone want to take note that Maldivian President Mohammed Muizzu too is facing his toughest Parliamentary elections, the 93 seats in The People’s Majlis, the Maldivian Parliament on April 21, Sunday. Muizzu faces poll heat after having taken a strident Maldives First stance and asking India to withdraw its troops from the shores of Maldives and the subsequent collateral damage to its tourism industry and its economy.

According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), on Sunday, April 21, the Maldives will hold its parliamentary election for 93 constituencies. Over 2,84,663 voters may cast ballots at 602 polling stations, including three polling stations abroad. Polling will be held between 8.00 am to 4.00 pm. There are about 2,166 international observers who are in Maldives for the elections.

Although Maldives employs the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) principle in its elections, if in case there is a tie between two candidates with highest number of votes, then there is a run-off election held within 15 days and the process repeats itself until there is a clear winner. Maldives does not have any reserved seats for women, although local governments have 33 percent reservation for women. Out of the 369 candidates in the poll fray, 43 (11.6%) are women.

The People’s Majlis, the Maldivian Parliament, is a unicameral legislative body responsible for enacting laws. Since the 2019 elections, splinter groups and smaller political parties have muddied the political and electoral waters. Recently the Maldivian Democratic Party and its splinter faction the Democrats had recently had a reconciliation. Ironically none of the political parties have come out with any sort of election manifesto of any sort.

The alliance of Muizzu’s Progressive Party of Maldives and Peoples National Congress hopes to retain power even as Maldives struggles to keep afloat economically in the aftermath of its diplomatic fallout with India.

President Muizzu came to power in 2023 on a campaign pledge to withdraw Indian troops presence in the Maldives. Diplomatic ties between the two nations were strained following an incident in early January this year, as Indian Coast Guard (ICG) boarding a Maldivian fishing vessel in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) sparking off an ugly turn of events that have now cast its shadows on the elections in the Maldives.

It must be noted here that the presence of the Indian troops is purely in a non-combative role. The officers from the Indian Airforce fly helicopters, small planes and air ambulances to ferry passengers and the sick to the capital Male.

Diplomatic ties with India took a further nosedive with three Deputy Ministers in the Maldivian Youth Affairs Ministry criticizing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It all blew over with the Indian Prime Minister taking to social media platform X to tweet about his recent visit to Lakshadweep and shared some of his photos. The remarks of the Maldivian ministers only added more fuel to the fire and triggered off a backlash from Indians who cancelled their summer vacations in the Maldives. The ugly spat proved a blessing in disguise for neighboring Sri Lanka, as the tourists changed their course to the other island nation.

Soon after having taken over the reins of the country, President Muizzu has begun expanding the diplomatic ties with India’s arch rival, China. The worrying factor for India is that if Muizzu secures majority in the Sunday’s election, the presence of China will be more pronounced.

Other key issues that the voters will consider include economic challenges, such as the national debt and state-owned enterprises debt, housing issues, corruption, judicial reform, and the impact of drug use and gangs on youth. Already, Maldives is now requesting India for restructuring its infrastructural loans. However, India has decided to cut development aid to Maldives by 22 percent for 2023-24. Maldives was allocated Rs 600 crores as development aid by India which is third largest aid given by India to any foreign country

Besides depending upon tourism for its main source of revenue, Maldives has been dependent on India for essential supplies like foodgrains, drinking water, medical aid and other essential supplies. India has helped Maldives to reconstruct its economy after the 2004 Tsunami that hit the island nation.

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