Maldives is scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in September 2023. In the previous parliamentary election held in 2019, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won a historic 65 out of 87 seats, with the remaining seats held by other parties and independents. The main electoral issues in the country include development, corruption, the environment, and violent extremism, but political discourse is largely dominated by anti-India and anti-China campaigns.
The ruling MDP is facing a growing rift between former President Mohamed Nasheed and incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Nasheed announced his candidacy for the MDP’s presidential primary, accusing Solih of rigging votes and bribery. Solih won the primary and urged for unity within the party, but the split could lead to a divided vote in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Qayyoom, the opposition coalition’s candidate, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of money laundering and bribery, barring him from running for president.
India and China’s activities in the country have further exacerbated political divisions and polarization. The opposition has urged the government to reconsider its close ties with India, while Nasheed criticized China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying that Beijing intentionally inflated the prices of projects it funded. With records and details not transparently laid out concerning China’s economic and development engagement with Malé, the Maldivian finance minister has been working to reconcile loans that the previous government took for these projects.
As the elections approach, the India and China “factors” in political campaigns could increase, with potentially significant implications for Maldives’ foreign policy. The government formed after the elections will face challenges in maneuvering and balancing Indian and Chinese interests in the region, while domestic politics will continue to play a critical role in shaping the country’s foreign policy. India and China will be closely watching the political outcome and strategizing on how to further their interests.