Pro-China Political Party Wins Maldives Parliamentary Elections

The ruling party of Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu scored a sweeping victory in the country’s parliamentary elections, as voters endorsed the president’s pro-China foreign policy.

Muizzu’s People’s National Congress party won 70 of the 93 parliamentary seats in last Sunday’s election, giving it absolute control of the country’s Parliament. Meanwhile, the party led by former pro-India President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih lost 40 seats, leaving only 15 in the new Parliament.

Both India and China watched the Maldives elections closely as the two countries have been competing for influence in the strategically placed Indian Ocean archipelago.

Muizzu’s election victory last year brought the rivalry to a head as he took a pro-China position, which included vowing to remove Indian troops from one of the archipelago’s islets.

The pro-China president campaigned on the theme “India Out” and accused his predecessor of compromising the sovereignty of the Maldives by allowing India to gain too much influence.

Muizzu has taken steps to remove the roughly 75 Indian military personnel stationed in Maldives ostensibly to assist the country in sea rescue operations. The president plans to have civilians take over the efforts once the Indian military leaves.

Relations between Maldives and India grew further strained when Indian activists began a social media campaign to boycott tourism to Maldives after three Maldives officials made derogatory comments about India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With India no longer the main source of tourism in Maldives, President Muizzu visited Bejing earlier this year to negotiate an increase in inbound flights from China to boost tourism.

Maldives is a member of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, Bejing’s influence operation that provides loans to countries to build ports and other infrastructure as a way to expand trade.