Pro-China party earns landslide victory in Maldives parliamentary elections

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Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s party earned a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, local media reported on Monday, a result set to move the Indian Ocean archipelago closer to China and away from traditional partner India.

Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC) won 71 of the 93 seats available on Sunday, preliminary results from the Maldives Elections Commission and media projections showed.

The PNC together with its coalition parties holds 75 seats in total while the main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) dwindled to only 12 seats from 65 previously.

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Jubilant voters celebrated with party poppers and cut cakes in their constituencies. Official celebrations by the PNC are scheduled to start tonight with a rally in Male.

Both Beijing and New Delhi have wooed the Maldives as they vie for influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Elected last year, Muizzu has pledged to end the country’s “India First” policy, straining ties with New Delhi.

His government has asked dozens of Indian military personnel to leave the Maldives, a move critics say could hasten its shift towards China.

Muizzu has also said his government is keen to explore partnerships under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, including the expansion of the country’s central airport and commercial port.

Chinese firms have invested $1.37 billion in the Maldives in the last decade making it the largest bilateral creditor, World Bank data showed.

“Now Muizzu has more leverage and space to pursue a more balanced foreign policy. He would seek to forge a more diversified policy but I don’t think he will necessarily severe India relations,” said Azim Zahir, politics lecturer at the University of Western Australia.

Muizzu’s position as president was not affected by Sunday’s vote, in which 368 candidates stood for five-year terms.

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