Maldives leader seeks allies as polls head for second round

AFP , Sunday 10 Sep 2023

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said he was seeking allies Sunday in his bid for re-election, a day after trailing in a first round of polls without an outright winner.

Electoral workers prepare for vote counting during Maldives  presidential election in Male on Septem
Electoral workers prepare for vote counting during Maldives presidential election in Male on September 9, 2023. AFP

 

Solih's attempt for a second term has been turned into a referendum on his pursuit of renewed ties with India, the archipelago nation's traditional benefactor.

Preliminary results from the election on Saturday showed Solih took 39 percent of the vote, behind his key rival, the capital's mayor Mohamed Muizzu, with 46 percent.

The independent Elections Commission (EC) is yet to release final results, but provisional results have been collated by local media based on tallies announced by the EC.

A second round of voting is expected on September 30.

"We have to ally with others," 61-year-old Solih told reporters Sunday, blaming his poor showing on "unforseen factors", but without giving details.

Muizzu, 45, a proxy of former president Abdulla Yameen, who is both pro-China and a campaigner for drastically reducing economic and military ties with India.

Yameen is serving an 11-year sentence following his corruption conviction in December, and was barred from contesting Saturday's vote.

During his autocratic five-year tenure, Yameen borrowed heavily from China for construction projects, making the nation -- better known for its luxury tourism -- a hotbed of geopolitical rivalry.

After his shock victory five years ago, Solih moved swiftly to repair relations with New Delhi strained under Yameen, who banked on Beijing for loans and diplomatic support.

A breakaway candidate from Solih's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Ilyas Labeeb, came third with seven percent.

Eight candidates were in the running for the top job in the Indian Ocean nation of 1,192 coral islets, scattered some 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator.

Nearly 80 percent of the 282,000 electorate turned out to vote, compared to 90 percent at the 2018 poll.

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