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Maldives presidential run-off pits pro-India, pro-China figures
Maldives presidential run-off pits pro-India, pro-China figures
Asia
Maldives presidential run-off pits pro-India, pro-China figures
by DZRH News03 October 2023
People arrive to cast their vote at a polling station during the second round of a presidential election in Male, Maldives September 30, 2023. REUTERS/Dhahau Naseem

By Mohamed Junayd

MALE (Reuters) - Voters lined up at hundreds of polling stations in the Maldives on Saturday in a run-off election for president of the Indian Ocean archipelago that pits the incumbent India-leaning leader against a strong pro-China contender.

Opposition candidate Mohamed Muizzu led President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the first round three weeks ago by 6 percentage points. A poll last week by the local Baani Center think tank showed the incumbent ahead with 30% and Muizzu at 24% but with 36% of voters undecided.

Thousands turned out early at over 586 polling stations across 187 islands known for their sun-kissed beaches and resorts. Maldivians were also voting at polling stations in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Britain and Abu Dhabi.

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"Everything is going on as scheduled. There are no issues yet," Fuwad Thowfeek, the president of the Elections Commission, told Reuters.

Solih, seeking a second five-year term, has championed an "India first" policy. The coalition backing Muizzu has launched an "India out" campaign, promising to remove a small Indian military presence of several surveillance aircraft and some 75 personnel.

Muizzu entered the fray with support from pro-China former President Abdulla Yameen, who was banned from contesting the election by the Supreme Court in August following a conviction for corruption and money laundering.

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(Reporting by Mohamed Junayd in Male and Uditha Jayasinghe; Editing by William Mallard)

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