In the third episode of ‘Policy Beyond Borders,’ Mimrah Abdul Gafoor, Maldivian Political Analyst and Neelima A, Research Associate at CPPR, delve into the analysis of the 2023 Presidential Election of Maldives which has gone into a runoff on 30th September 2023 and has great geopolitical implications in International Relations. When the world is busy discussing G20 and its outcomes, here we bring to you this important issue in which India’s stake cannot be missed.

The election in the Maldives is characterised by a multi-horse race involving various political parties. The primary discussion during the ‘Policy Beyond Borders’ podcast revolved around the following key parties:

a. The Opposition: The speaker noted that Mohammed Muizzu from Progressive Party of Maldives which is the opposition is currently the frontrunner. However, the opposition has been marked by internal divisions and differences between the former and current presidents.
b. Incumbent Party: The discussion also touched on the Maldivian Democratic Party that is the ruling party’s challenges. Despite some improvements in terms of not imprisoning political opponents compared to previous administrations, President Solih’s rule has faced corruption scandals, including procurement issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
c. Other Domestic Issues: The podcast highlighted that domestic issues, such as the split within the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), have further complicated the political landscape, making it challenging to predict the election’s outcome.

Geopolitical Implications:
a. India’s Stake: India’s interests in the Maldives have been a focal point of the discussion. The speaker pointed out that while Abdulla Yameen’s (PPM) administration initially maintained an “India first” policy and received assistance from India during crises, criticism from India regarding the imprisonment of opposition figures led to a nationalist stance within Yameen’s government.
b. Changing Dynamics: The discussion also shed light on shifting dynamics within the MDP. While in opposition, MDP criticised the Maldives’ overdependence on China and the possibility of falling into a Chinese debt trap. However, upon assuming power, they have sought aid from China in various forms, including airports and housing projects.
c. India’s Image: There is a perception among the public that India is closely associated with the MDP, which could impact the party’s popularity. A campaign focusing on “back off India” by a candidate like Muizzu could create friction in India-Maldives relations if successful.

d. Debt Concerns: Both major parties have announced populist policies, but the Maldives’ increasing debt levels hinder their ability to implement these policies. Public discontent is rising, especially given the experiences of neighbouring countries with debt-related crises and warnings from institutions like the IMF and World Bank.

The 2023 Presidential Election in the Maldives is a critical event with significant implications for regional geopolitics, particularly India’s regional interests. The election outcome remains uncertain due to complex domestic issues, including party divisions and public disillusionment with rising debt levels. Whichever government assumes power must address the substantial debt burden and carefully navigate the evolving geopolitical landscape.

Debt Management: The Maldivian government, once elected, must prioritize responsible debt management and seek international assistance to address the growing debt crisis.
Engagement with China: India should continue to engage diplomatically with China regarding its activities in the Maldives, especially in the context of potential Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
Public Relations: Both major political parties should improve their public image and address public concerns, especially those related to debt and economic stability.

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