Maldivians will head to the polls on Saturday to choose their next president from a competitive pool of eight candidates, including the incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Here’s why we’re watching:
- 🏝️ The 1200 islands that comprise the Maldives are located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, near vital shipping lanes
- 🇮🇳🇨🇳 This strategic location attracts interest from foreign powers, who’ve long competed for influence in the archipelago, and
- 🗳️ This is the fourth and most competitive election since the Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008
And while the campaign issues are mostly domestic, the country’s elections have had a broader impact lately:
- 🇨🇳 Former President Yameen (2013-2018) pursued a pro-China line, pulling the country out of the Commonwealth and signing its first-ever free trade agreement with Beijing, but then
- 🇮🇳🇺🇸 President Solih won power in 2018 and pulled a quick U-turn, re-joining the Commonwealth, pursuing an ‘India first’ foreign policy, and signing a defence agreement with Washington
Intrigue’s take: With ~280,000 eligible voters choosing among eight candidates from splintered parties, anything could happen. There’s a decent chance we’ll move to a second round later this month.
And more than ever, the world will be watching.
Also worth noting:
- Former President Yameen was sentenced in December to 11 years in prison for money laundering and corruption.
- The head of the Maldivian electoral commission was ousted in July, raising objections from the opposition.
- Some candidates have raised concerns around the country’s defence cooperation with India.