Maldives: Pro-China opposition candidate Mohamed Muiz wins presidential election
The election has turned into a virtual referendum on which regional power India or China will have the biggest influence in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation
Opposition candidate Mohamed Muiz won the Maldives presidential runoff on Saturday, securing more than 53 per cent of the vote, local media reported.
The election has turned into a virtual referendum on which regional power India or China will have the biggest influence in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.
Mihaaru News reported that incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had received 46 per cent of the vote and that Muiz had won by more than 18,000 votes. Official results were expected on Sunday.
Muiz also requested that Solih transfer former president Abdulla Yameen to house arrest from prison. It was a surprise win for Muiz, who entered the fray as an underdog.
He was named only as a fallback candidate closer to the nomination deadline after the Supreme Court prevented Yameen from running because he is serving a prison sentence for money laundering and corruption. Yameen's supporters say he's been jailed for political reasons.
Neither Muiz nor Solih got more than 50 per cent in the first round of voting earlier in September.
Solih, who was elected president in 2018, was battling allegations by Muiz that he had allowed India an unchecked presence in the country. Muiz's party, the People's National Congress, is viewed as heavily pro-China.
Solih has insisted that the Indian military's presence in the Maldives was only to build a dockyard under an agreement between the two governments and that his country's sovereignty won't be violated.
Muiz promised that if he won the presidency, he would remove Indian troops from the Maldives and balance the country's trade relations, which he said were heavily in India's favour.
An engineer, Muiz had served as the housing minister for seven years. He was mayor of Male, the capital, when he was chosen to run for president.
Solih suffered a setback closer to the election when Mohamed Nasheed, a charismatic former president, broke away from his Maldivian Democratic Party and fielded his own candidate in the first round.
Yameen, leader of the People's National Congress, made the Maldives a part of China's Belt and Road initiative during his presidency from 2013 to 2018.
The initiative is meant to build railroads, ports, and highways to expand trade, and China's influence, across Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The Maldives is made up of 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean located by the main shipping route between the East and the West.