A Look at the Dynamic Political Landscape of the Maldives

The ruling MDP is currently factionalized between President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former President and Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed, while the opposition PPM is vying for power without a clear leader due to former President Abdulla Yameen's imprisonment. This situation is likely to make the 2023 Presidential Election campaign season unpredictable and intense, as both parties seek to solidify their positions and appeal to voters.

Malé road decorated with campaign material for 2018 campaign. | Photo: Raajjemv

The Maldives, a small island nation located in the Indian Ocean, has undergone a series of political transitions in recent years, including the transition from autocracy to democracy in 2008.

The country’s political climate, however, remains turbulent, with ongoing concerns about corruption, political polarization, and limited press freedom.

The Maldives is home to two major political parties, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which have often been at odds with each other. This has led to political tensions, with both parties accusing each other of wrongdoing.

Other key political parties include Jumhooree Party (JP), Adhaalath Party (AP) and Maldives Reform Movement (MRM).

In recent years, there have been concerns about rising religious fundamentalism in the country, with the government taking steps to curb the spread of extremist ideologies. The government has also taken measures to address issues related to gender equality, with the passage of legislation criminalizing marital rape in 2019.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges for the Maldives, with the government taking a number of measures to limit the spread of the virus. This has included strict lockdowns and travel restrictions, which have had a significant impact on the country’s economy.

The government has also been working to provide economic relief to those who have been impacted by the pandemic.

The country has also seen several high-profile political arrests in recent years, including that of former president Abdulla Yameen, who was found guilty of money laundering.

The government has been accused of using the judiciary to target political opponents, with concerns raised about the independence of the judiciary.

This has led to criticism from human rights organizations, who have called on the government to respect human rights and the rule of law.

Despite these challenges, the Maldives continues to make progress in its transition to democracy, with the government taking steps to promote transparency and accountability.

This has included the establishment of anti-corruption commissions, as well as measures to increase public participation in government decision-making.

However, there is still much work to be done, and the country’s political landscape remains dynamic and subject to change.

The Maldives is also vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with rising sea levels threatening the country’s existence.

This has led the government to prioritize efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change, including by transitioning to renewable energy sources.

In addition to these factors, the 2023 presidential elections are expected to be highly contested, with both the ruling MDP and the opposition PPM vying for power.

MDP, which has been in power since 2018, is likely to focus on promoting democratic reforms, as well as its efforts to address issues such as corruption and gender inequality.

The party has also been working to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to be a key issue in the upcoming election.

However, with the party recently divided into two factions between President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former President and Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed.

With each faction having different opinions on how the party should function and how it should approach governance, some have suggested that the split could have implications for the party’s ability to govern effectively and could impact the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections.

In the most recent developments, Speaker Nasheed’s faction announced to make a manifesto on how to work together with the Jumhoory Party (JP).

Meanwhile, the PPM is expected to focus on issues such as national security, economic growth, and job creation. The party has criticized the government’s handling of the pandemic, as well as its record on human rights and the rule of law.

However, the impact of former President Abdulla Yameen being in jail on the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in the 2023 elections is likely to be significant.

His imprisonment, which is related to charges of money laundering and corruption, has left the PPM without a clear leader and has thrown the party’s future into uncertainty.

Without Yameen at the helm, the PPM is likely to struggle to galvanize its base and attract new supporters. The party has also been beset by internal divisions, with some members calling for a change in leadership and others remaining loyal to Yameen.

This situation is likely to make the campaign season unpredictable and intense, as parties seek to solidify their positions and appeal to voters.

The election is also likely to be shaped by broader geopolitical factors, with both India and China vying for influence in the region.

The Maldives has historically been closely aligned with India, but in recent years, there has been a growing Chinese presence in the country, with China financing a number of infrastructure projects in the Maldives.

However, India has become the biggest lender to the country after the current administration came to power and it’s influence being criticized heavily by the opposition.

India has been a traditional ally of the Maldives and has provided development assistance and concessional loans to the country.

In 2018, India announced a $1.4 billion package of financial assistance to the Maldives, including loans and grants for infrastructure projects, healthcare, and education.

The aim of this package was to counter China’s growing influence in the region and to support the development of democratic institutions in the Maldives.

China, on the other hand, has been increasing its presence in the Maldives through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In 2017, the Maldives became the second country in South Asia to join the BRI, and China has since invested heavily in infrastructure projects in the country, including a new airport, a bridge linking the capital city to the airport, and a housing project.

China has also provided loans to the Maldives, which has resulted in the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio increasing significantly in recent years.

While both India and China’s investments have brought development to the Maldives, they have also raised concerns about the country’s sovereignty and the potential for debt-trap diplomacy.

The Maldives has sought to balance its relations with both India and China, but its political instability and economic vulnerability have made it susceptible to external influence.

Maldives will need to carefully manage its relations with both India and China to ensure that it can benefit from their investments without becoming overly dependent on them.

It will also need to navigate the complex geopolitics of the region, particularly in the context of the rivalry between India and China.

2023 presidential election is likely to be a closely contested and highly consequential event, with significant implications for the future of the Maldives.

The country’s next leader will need to navigate a range of economic, social, and political challenges, including ongoing concerns about corruption, political polarization, and the impact of climate change.

Overall, the Maldives faces a range of economic, social, and political challenges as it continues to navigate its transition to democracy. While progress has been made in a number of areas, much work remains to be done to ensure that the country is able to address its many challenges and build a more stable, inclusive, and prosperous future for all its citizens.