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Pro-China winner in Maldives vows to unite archipelago

Maldives’ president-elect Mohamed Muizzu has pledged to rebalance relations with India. (AFP pic)

MALE: The president-elect of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, said he wanted to unite the Indian Ocean archipelago after divisive polls that saw the pro-Beijing leader vow to rebalance relations with New Delhi.

“No matter their political affiliation, they are all Maldivian citizens in front of me,” Muizzu told supporters after his win late yesterday.

“They are entitled to the same rights. They are entitled to equality in everything.”

There was no immediate reaction from China to his win, but India’s prime minister Narendra Modi congratulated Muizzu today.

New Delhi is “committed to strengthening the time-tested India-Maldives bilateral relationship”, Modi said in a post on the social media platform X.

The Maldives, a chain of atolls scattered 800km across the equator better known for its upmarket beach resorts, sits in a strategically vital position astride one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes.

Muizzu, 45, won 54% of the vote in the run-off contest, prompting incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to concede defeat shortly before midnight yesterday.

“He has started work on drawing up his team”, a source close to Muizzu said today.

“He wants a smooth, peaceful transition”.

Solih, 61, who will serve as caretaker president until his successor is inaugurated on Nov 17, declared today, a working day in Maldives, a holiday.

Streets were quiet across the island capital Male this morning.

Muizzu told a meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials last year that his party’s return to office would “script a further chapter of strong ties between our two countries”.

The result upends Solih’s efforts to revert the country’s diplomatic posture back towards New Delhi since taking office five years ago.

There was no immediate reaction from Solih to Muizzu’s request to free his mentor and former president Abdulla Yameen from prison and confine him to house arrest in the capital.

Muizzu was a proxy candidate of Yameen, who is serving an 11-year sentence for corruption when he was in power between 2013 and 2018.