India or China will decide whether the Maldives will vote in the presidential election

MALE, Maldives (AP) — Maldivians voted Saturday Second presidential election It has become a virtual referendum on which regional power — India or China — will have the greatest influence in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Neither the main opposition candidate, Mohamed Muis, nor incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih received more than 50% of the vote in the first round of voting in September. Solih, who was first elected president in 2018, is fighting Muis’ accusations that he has allowed an unfettered presence in India. Muis’s party, the People’s National Congress, is seen as heavily pro-China.

Muis took a surprise lead in the first round with more than 46% of the vote, while Solih got 39%.

Solih asserted that the presence of the Indian Army in the Maldives was only for the construction of the docks as per the agreement between the two governments and that his country’s sovereignty would not be violated.

If he wins the presidency, he has promised to remove Indian forces from the Maldives and balance the country’s trade relations.

The second term is seen as a tough challenge for Chloe, and her chances depend on whether members of her party’s breakaway factions vote for her.

Charismatic former president Mohamed Nasheed broke away from Chloe’s Maldivian Democratic Party and dropped his candidacy in the first round. She has decided to stay neutral in the second round, but some of her supporters are likely to back Chloe.

People’s National Congress leader Abdullah Yameen made the Maldives part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative during his presidency from 2013 to 2018. The initiative was to build railroadsPorts and highways to expand trade across Asia, Africa and Europe – and China’s influence.

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Muis, an engineer who served as housing minister for seven years, was only elected as the People’s National Congress’s fallback candidate after the Supreme Court barred Yameen from contesting the election because he is serving a prison term for money laundering and corruption. .

The Maldives is made up of 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean and lies on a major shipping route between the East and West.

“These five years have been the most peaceful and prosperous five years we have ever seen. We have political peace and opposition candidates are not jailed every day,” said Abdul Muhusin, who said he voted for Soli in the second election on Saturday.

Another voter, Saeed Hussain, said he chose Muis because “I want the Indian Army to leave the Maldives.”

“I don’t believe the Maldivian military has any control. “Only Muis can change these things and get the Indian Army to leave the Maldives,” he said.

More than 78% of the 282,000 eligible voters cast their ballots. The result is expected on Sunday.

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