Local media said that the opposition candidate in the Maldives, Mohamed Moez, won the run-off round in the presidential elections

Male, Maldives (AFP) – Local media reported that opposition candidate Mohamed Moez won the second round of the presidential elections in the Maldives, on Saturday, after obtaining more than 53% of the votes.

The election has turned into a virtual referendum in which the regional power – India or China – will have greater influence in the archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean.

Miharu News reported that current President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih received 46% of the votes and that Al-Moez won by more than 18,000 votes. Official results are expected to be released later on Sunday.

This is a surprising victory for Al-Moez, who entered the battle as a reserve candidate and was only chosen as a reserve candidate as the nomination deadline approached after the Supreme Court banned his party leader and former president Abdulla Yameen from competing because he is serving a prison sentence. For money laundering and corruption.

“Today’s result is a reflection of the patriotism of our people. We call on all our neighbors and bilateral partners to fully respect our independence and sovereignty,” said Mohamed Sharif, a senior official in Al-Moez’s party. He told the Associated Press that it was also a mandate for Al-Moez to revive the economy and release the Congress party leader. Popular Nationalist Abdulla Yameen from prison.

Yameen is serving a prison sentence for corruption and money laundering, but his supporters say he is imprisoned for political reasons.

Neither Moez nor Solih received more than 50% in the first round of voting earlier in September.

Solih, who was elected president for the first time in 2018, has been fighting allegations by Moiz that he allowed India an unmonitored presence in the country. Al-Moez’s party, the National People’s Congress, is seen as staunchly pro-China.

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Solih insisted that the Indian military presence in the Maldives was only to build the shipyard as per an agreement between the two governments and that his country’s sovereignty would not be violated.

Moise promised that if he won the presidency, he would withdraw Indian troops from the Maldives and balance the country’s trade relations, which he said was largely in India’s favour.

Ahmed Shaheed, the former Foreign Minister of the Maldives, described the electoral ruling as a public revolt against the government’s failure to meet economic and governance expectations rather than concerns about Indian influence.

“I don’t think India was ever on people’s minds,” Shahid said.

Al-Moez, an engineer, served as Minister of Housing for seven years. He was the mayor of the capital, Male, when he was chosen to run for president.

Solih suffered a setback as the election approached when Mohamed Nasheed, the charismatic former president, broke with his Maldivian Democratic Party and fielded its own candidate in the first round. He decided to remain neutral in the second round.

“Nashid’s departure takes the motherboard away from the municipal development programme,” Shahid said.

Yameen, leader of the People’s National Congress, made the Maldives part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative during his presidency from 2013 to 2018. The initiative aims to build railwaysAnd ports and highways to expand trade – and China’s influence – across Asia, Africa and Europe.

Despite the rhetoric, Moise is unlikely to change the foreign policy of carving out a place for India – rather, opposition to Chinese projects is likely to decrease, and the balance of power will level out, Shaheed said.

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The Maldives consists of 1,200 atolls in the Indian Ocean and lies on the main east-west shipping route.

“These five years have been the most peaceful and prosperous five years we have ever seen. We have achieved political peace, and opposition candidates are not imprisoned every day,” said Abdul Mohsen, who said he voted for Solih in Saturday’s runoff.

Another voter, Saeed Hussain, said he chose Al Moez because “I want the Indian Army to leave the Maldives.”

“I don’t think the Maldivian Army has any control. Only Moiz can change these things and make the Indian Army leave the Maldives.”

There were more than 282,000 eligible voters, and the participation rate reached 78% an hour before the polls closed.

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Krishan Francis contributed to this report from Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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