Maldives conducted polls last weekend that hit the ruling pro-India Maldivian Democratic Party hard.
Results were declared on Sunday which showed MDP’s presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih coming down by 7 per cent behind Male mayor Mohamed Muizzu who was the moving ahead and is a pro-China candidate.
As none of the candidates received more than 50% of votes, the next and final round of voting will be conducted on September 30.
With 39% of the vote, Solih trailed behind Muizzu, who received 46%. Ilyas Labeeb of The Democrats, a party led by former president and MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed who broke away from Solih and the MDP to start a new party since India preferred to support Solih over him, won the exact 7% difference between the victor and runner-up.
Today’s victory would have been clear cut if Nasheed had remained in the MDP and had support from India. However, history has always been a game of “ifs and buts,” and occasionally, the victor must pick the side that is not your own.
Nasheed’s support for Muizzu
In this nation of several hundred islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, the next few weeks will undoubtedly determine which way the wind blows. Although Nasheed is the creator of the “India Out” campaign, which includes the pledge to evict fictitious “Indian soldiers” thought to be stationed on Addu Island, there is widespread suspicion that Nasheed may back Muizzu.
Only a month prior, Nasheed had predicted that Muizzu would usher in a brand of radical politics to the Maldives that had never been seen there. How much things alter in a month. It will be the end of what once was and could have been once more, a lovely friendship between Nasheed and Muizzu, if he does decide to back Muizzu today.
But if all parties are able to reach a compromise, Nasheed may very well give Solih his 7 percent of the vote, enable him to win, and then demand whatever they may be.
There is no doubt that Nasheed, and not Solih or Muizzu, is the Maldivian election’s decider after the first round. Moreover, the current Maldives president is still the country’s most powerful individual.
Previously, Nasheed and Solih were close friends. Nasheed was living in exile in Sri Lanka in 2018 when the Maldivians unexpectedly toppled Abdulla Yameen’s pro-China administration and returned the MDP to power. Solih was chosen as a contender for president because while Nasheed was in exile so Solih was a natural choice for president.
Nasheed has spent the last five years chafing at the bit, seeking to assert his forceful presence, which Solih kept denying him space for, despite being named for the next greatest role, that of Speaker of the People’s Majlis.
In spite of this, everyone in the Maldives and the rest of the region is well aware that Nasheed is the MDP’s primary vote-getter. The two men faced off in a regrettable primary earlier this year; much to Nasheed’s dismay, he lost. Later, he claimed that the voting lists had been rigged by the MDP. But the fact that Solih had triumphed remained.
India has increased its support for Solih over the past five years, committing to projects that will create jobs and fortify the security ring around the island. However, at the same time rift between India and Nasheed started growing.
As a result, Delhi rejected Nasheed’s call for a switch from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government. There were numerous justifications for maintaining the status quo, including The Maldives’ tiny size, instability, and remote location. Nasheed believed that India had no desire to aid in his ascent to power.
What then did he do? He made the decision to leave his beloved MDP, start his own party, discredit his old friend, and provide the Maldivian voter with an option in the form of Muizzu. They grabbed it.
The issue is that Muizzu is not only the creator of the “India Out” movement; his wife is reportedly a close relative of a powerful figure within the extreme Jammiyatul Salaf group. Ironically, when motorbike assailants attemptef to kill Nasheed through a bomb a few years ago, it was carried out by alleged “religious extremists” who wanted him gone because they believed he was too progressive and modern for the Maldives.