Maldives seek political stability in crucial parliamentary vote | News | DW

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Parliamentary elections in the Maldives ended “without major incidents,” an electoral commission official said on Saturday. Some 78 percent of Maldivian voters turned out at the polls despite the unusually hot weather.

More than 264,000 people were eligible to vote in the Indian Ocean archipelago, where 386 candidates are vying for a place in parliament.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (pictured above) needs at least 44 seats out of the 87 members of parliament to secure a majority. His coalition currently has 52 seats, but a major political partner with 22 seats recently aligned with former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Yameen’s Progressive Maldives Party (PPM) are the main candidates for the election.

Provisional results are expected by Sunday, but official results are not expected until Friday, after receipt of all ballots cast outside the country.

Reform promises

Solih, who defeated Yameen in last year’s presidential election, needs a majority in parliament to be able to pass laws and implement his political and economic agenda. The president promised reforms, an end to political influence over the judiciary, police and bureaucracy, and a curb on financial corruption.

On Friday, he urged voters to support his party to ensure a stable government capable of implementing the necessary changes.

In last year’s presidential election, opposition parties joined hands to defeat Yameen, but soon after Solih’s victory the coalition split and left the new president without parliamentary majority.

Yameen, who was released last week after being arrested in February on corruption allegations, spoke to voters in a loudspeaker phone call.

Political unrest

Saturday’s vote also marks the return of the country’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, who, after being released by the courts, is running for a seat in the elections.

The Maldives, which became a multi-party democracy in 2008 after decades of authoritarian rule, has faced political turmoil since Nasheed resigned in 2012.

Read more: Maldives court orders arrest of ex-president Yameen Abdul Gayoom

Geopolitical tug of war

Analysts say China and India are trying to outdo the other’s influence over the Maldives.

While Yameen was in power, China gained more political influence in the archipelago. Under Yameen, the Maldivian economy showed signs of improvement, although economists say the country’s growth was in part due to aid and investment from China.

Read more: India “disturbed” by political crisis in Maldives

Beijing sees the Maldives as an important route in its Belt and Road initiative, which, along with other goals, aims to link the Indian Ocean with Central Asia.

Solih’s CDM is seen as pro-Indian and wants to reduce Chinese influence over the Maldives.

Ahead of the 2018 presidential election, former President Nasheed warned Maldivians that the vote could be their last chance to free the country from Chinese influence.

Read more: Former Maldives President Nasheed: “Opposition victory restores ties with India”

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dj, shs / ​​jlw (AP, dpa)

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