Mohamed Muizzu, the president-elect of the Maldives, expressed his determination to unify the Indian Ocean archipelago after a divisive election that saw the pro-Beijing leader pledge to recalibrate relations with New Delhi.
In a post-election address on Saturday, Muizzu declared, “No matter their political affiliation, they are all Maldivian citizens in front of me. They are entitled to the same rights. They are entitled to equality in everything.”
While China had no immediate reaction to his victory, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his congratulations to Muizzu on Sunday. Modi affirmed India’s commitment to enhancing the long-standing India-Maldives bilateral relationship in a post on the social media platform X.
The Maldives, a chain of atolls spanning 800 kilometers (500 miles) across the equator, is renowned for its luxurious beach resorts and occupies a strategically significant location astride one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping routes.
Muizzu, aged 45, secured 54 percent of the vote in the run-off election, leading to the incumbent, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, conceding defeat shortly before midnight on Saturday. A source close to Muizzu revealed on Sunday that he had already commenced the process of assembling his team and is committed to ensuring a smooth and peaceful transition.
Solih, aged 61, will serve as the caretaker president until his successor is inaugurated on November 17 and declared Sunday a public holiday.
The streets of the capital city, Malé, were quiet on Sunday morning. Muizzu had previously stated during a meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials last year that his party’s return to power would further strengthen the ties between the Maldives and China.
Muizzu’s victory disrupts Solih’s efforts to revert the country’s diplomatic posture back toward New Delhi, a policy pursued during his five years in office. There has been no immediate response from Solih regarding Muizzu’s request to release his mentor and former president, Abdulla Yameen, from prison and place him under house arrest in the capital.
Muizzu had served as a proxy candidate for Yameen, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for corruption during his presidency from 2013 to 2018.