Chinese-backed leader Mohamed Muisu's party wins landslide victory in Maldives parliamentary polls

Mohamed Muisu and his allies had only eight seats in the outgoing parliament


Maldivian President Mohamed Muizu's party won control of parliament in a landslide election on Sunday, with voters backing his tilt toward China and away from regional powerhouse and traditional India.

Muisu's People's National Congress (PNC) won 66 of the first 86 seats declared, more than enough for a super-majority in the already 93-member Majlis, or parliament, according to results from the Maldives' Elections Commission.

The vote was seen as an important test of Muizhu's plan to push ahead with closer economic cooperation with China, including building thousands of apartments on controversially reclaimed land.

The PNC and its allies had just eight seats in the outgoing parliament, deadlocked by lack of a majority since Muisu's presidential election victory in September.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) — which had previously held an absolute majority — was headed for a humiliating defeat with just a dozen seats.

Muizu, 45, was one of the first to vote on Sunday, at a school in the capital Male — where he was previously mayor — and urged Maldivians to turn out in large numbers.

“All citizens should come out and exercise their right to vote as soon as possible,” Muisu told reporters.

Maldives, a low-lying country of about 1,192 small coral islands scattered about 800 kilometers (500 miles) across the equator, is one of the countries most vulnerable to sea level rise caused by global warming.

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Muizu, a former construction minister, has vowed to stem the tide with ambitious land reclamation and the building of high-rise islands, a policy that environmentalists argue could increase flood risks.

The Maldives is known as a top luxury vacation destination, thanks to its pristine white beaches and secluded resorts.

But in recent years it has become a geopolitical hotspot in the Indian Ocean, where global east-west shipping lanes pass through the archipelago.

Muizu won last September's presidential election as a proxy for former pro-China President Abdullah Yameen, who was acquitted last week of an 11-year prison sentence on corruption charges.

This month, with campaigning for parliamentary elections in full swing, Muizu awarded high-profile infrastructure contracts to Chinese state-owned enterprises.

His administration is in the process of sending home a garrison of 89 Indian troops who fly spy planes gifted by New Delhi to patrol the Maldives' vast maritime borders.

The outgoing parliament, dominated by the pro-Indian MDP of Muisu's immediate predecessor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solli, sought to derail his efforts to reform Maldivian diplomacy.

Since Muizu came to power, lawmakers have blocked three of his cabinet nominees and rejected some of his spending plans.

“Geopolitics is very much in the background as parties campaign for votes in Sunday's election,” a senior Muisu aide told AFP on condition of anonymity ahead of the poll.

“He came to power promising to send back Indian troops and is working on that. Parliament has not cooperated with him since he came to power.”

Chloe was among those who voted early and expressed confidence that her party would win. There was no immediate reaction from his party to their poor showing in Sunday's polls.

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After the close of polling, 284,663 voters have reached 73 percent, said Fuad Taubeek, the head of elections.

(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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