In a considerable setback for the incumbent Maldives President, Mohamed Muizzu, the opposition party Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) witnessed a triumph as their candidate, Adam Azim, emerged victorious in the mayoral elections of Male amidst the ongoing diplomatic standoff with India. In the year 2023, Muizzu had relinquished his post to vie for the presidential elections, a development reported by news agencies.
The triumph of Azim was characterized as a “landslide” and an “overwhelming victory.” Azim’s electoral success secured a count of 5,303 votes out of 41 ballot boxes scrutinized, juxtaposed against the rival Aishath Azima Shakoor of Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC), who amassed 3,301 votes.
The electoral proceedings unfolded against the backdrop of a subdued voter turnout, transpiring amid a dispute fueled by disparaging remarks from three deputy ministers of the Muizzu administration directed at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These comments triggered a social media fracas in India, along with calls for a boycott of Maldives by Indian tourists, who ranked highest in numbers, followed by Russians in second place and the Chinese in third.
In response to the inflammatory remarks, Muizzu suspended the three ministers and endeavored to fortify Maldives’ relations with Beijing during his recent state visit to China. Muizzu, in a media briefing, announced that China had extended $130 million in aid to his nation, earmarked for developmental projects, with a significant allocation dedicated to enhancing road infrastructure in Male.
A joint statement released at the conclusion of Muizzu’s discussions with top Chinese leaders declared, “The two sides agree to continue firmly supporting each other in safeguarding their respective core interests.” Additionally, an agreement was inked permitting Maldivian, the national airline of Maldives, to conduct domestic flight operations in China.
Throughout Muizzu’s visit to China, the nations also formalized a $50 million pact for the development of a tourism zone in Hulhumale, coupled with the construction of 30,000 social housing units in Rasmale. Notably, his sojourn to China was marked not only by diplomatic tensions with India but also by a report issued by the EU Election Observation Mission of Maldives.
The report underscored that the ruling coalition of the People’s National Congress (PNC) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had leveraged anti-India sentiments and sought to disseminate disinformation during the 2023 presidential elections, in which Muizzu emerged victorious.
Following his visit to China, President Muizzu asserted that while his country may be diminutive, it does not grant license to be bullied, alluding to India and the ongoing diplomatic discord between the two nations. “We may be small, but this doesn’t give them the license to bully us,” remarked Muizzu, a leader known for his pro-China stance, refraining from explicitly naming any particular country. He added, “This ocean does not belong to a specific country. This (Indian) Ocean also belongs to all countries situated in it,” in an apparent dig at India.