Maldives pro-China ruling party tipped to win election

FILE PHOTO: President of the Maldives Mohamed Muizzu in Dubai
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By Mohamed Junayd

MALE (Reuters) -The Maldives' ruling party is set to win a two-thirds majority in Sunday's parliamentary election, local media said, a result likely to push the Indian Ocean island nation further towards China and away from its longtime ally India.

President Mohamed Muizzu's People's National Congress (PNC) is expected to win at least 62 of the 93 parliamentary seats, according to local media, while the main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) is projected to take 15 seats.

Beijing and New Delhi have both wooed the Maldives as they vie for influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

President Muizzu, elected last year, has pledged to end the country's "India First" policy, putting relations with New Delhi under strain. His government has asked dozens of Indian military personnel to leave the country, a move critics say could accelerate the Maldives' shift towards China.

Muizzu's post as president is not affected by Sunday's vote.

Ahead of the poll, the PNC had asked voters to elect a majority that would enable the president to swiftly fulfil his campaign pledges.

Opposition parties, who have criticised Muizzu's government on areas including foreign policy and the economy, sought to hold his government accountable.

The PNC managed to grab key seats in former MDP strongholds including in the capital Male, Addu City and Kulhudhuffushi City in the north.

The Democrats, founded by former president Mohamed Nasheed after splitting with MDP in 2023, lost all seats the party contested while former president Abdulla Yameen's new party also lost all the seats it contested, according to provisional results and media projections.

Voters had to choose 93 members of parliament from 368 candidates for the next five years. Voter turnout was 72.9%, the Maldives Elections Commission said, lower than the 82% that voted in 2019.

(Reporting by Mohadmed Junayd; Writing by Uditha Jayasinghe; Editing by William Mallard and Christina Fincher)