New Delhi, Sep 10: Maldives' much-anticipated 2023 presidential election has taken an unexpected twist, steering toward a runoff after none of the eight candidates managed to secure the coveted 50 per cent of the votes leaving the nation on tenterhooks and street corner gossip.
Initially considered the frontrunner, President Solih will now go head-to-head with opposition candidate Dr Mohamed Muizzu who is also Mayor of Male and supported by former President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen who is in jail. The runoff is slated for September 30.
In the runoff, President Solih faces a single opponent, but he may encounter challenges from within his party ranks, where former defectors and now running their political party may lend support to the opposition candidate.
Preliminary results from the Presidential Election 2023 reveal that President Solih secured 39 per cent of the votes, totalling 85,809 votes, while Dr Mohamed Muizzu leads with 46 per cent, amounting to 100,959 votes.
The winner in the duel between President Solih and Dr. Mohamed Muizzu will be determined in the runoff scheduled for September 30. Notably, India, China, and several other nations are closely monitoring these elections. The impending showdown between the two candidates is poised to draw significant international attention.
In the race, other candidates trailed far behind, with The Democrats' candidate Ilyas Labeeb capturing a mere seven per cent of the vote, while former home minister Umar Naseer and JP’s candidate and leader Qasim Ibrahim secured 2.8 per cent each. Independent candidate Ahmed Faris Maumoon secured one per cent, while MNP’s candidates Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim and Hassan Zameel failed to cross even the one per cent threshold.
Historically, the Maldives has frequently witnessed runoff elections in contests featuring more than two candidates. Both the 2008 and 2013 elections necessitated runoffs, whereas the 2018 election featured only two contenders.
Subsequently, President Solih addressed the press, acknowledging the need to forge alliances considering the impending runoff. He remarked, "No matter what, we will need to form some allies now. I believe PPM will also work [to make allies], and so will we." He also affirmed their immediate efforts to secure victory in the second round.
Of the Maldivian population, 58 per cent turned out to cast their votes in the high-stakes presidential elections which is marked as below expectations. The Maldives Police Service reported the detention of six individuals in connection with incidents related to the ongoing presidential election otherwise elections were held peacefully with dozens of observers including some foreigners.
Voting commenced at 8:00 AM local time in the island nation, with eager voters lining up as early as 7:00 AM at multiple polling stations in the capital city, Male.
This year's electoral contest featured a remarkable diversity of eight presidential candidates vying for the nation's highest office. This marked an unprecedented level of variety in the race, with five candidates representing political parties and three running as independent candidates.
Voting booths remained accessible to voters until 4:00 PM, after which the process of vote counting began at 4:30 PM. A network of 574 polling stations was strategically set up across the country, and ballot boxes were placed in five foreign countries, including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, the United Kingdom, and Abu Dhabi.
While the global spotlight shines on the G20 Summit in New Delhi, where over 45 Heads of States and International Organizations convene to discuss economic growth, the nearby Maldives embarks on a fiercely contested political battle. The presidential election and ruling political party in the Maldives carries the potential for global repercussions and should not be underestimated.
Despite its diminutive size and serene reputation, the Maldives holds a distinct geopolitical position in the Indo-Pacific region. In an era marked by escalating global interests, multilateral powers like the QUAD alliance, as well as individual nations such as India, China, and the United States, keenly observe the Maldives' political alignment and its prospective role as a significant player in the evolving Indo-Pacific landscape.