Maldivian wave

President Solih consolidates power with his MDP’s victory in parliamentary polls

The administration of Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has received a shot in the arm with the parliamentary election held over the weekend. His Maldivian Democratic Party is poised to garner more than 60 out of 87 seats, paving the way for easy passage of bills and a policy agenda with a realistic chance of implementation. Mr. Solih, whose pro-democracy government assumed power after a presidential election in September 2018, has sought to break with the regime of his predecessor Abdulla Yameen, which had propelled the Indian Ocean nation into Beijing’s economic embrace, described by some as “debt-trap diplomacy”. While Mr. Solih was quick to signal the shift in his government’s priorities, not least by ensuring that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest at the presidential inauguration, his agenda has been hobbled by resistance from lawmakers on certain bills aimed at the previous administration. Specifically, Parliament Speaker Qasim Ibrahim, the head of the Jumhooree Party, a coalition partner of the MDP, declined to support a vote on a bill aimed at recouping stolen assets and looking into unresolved murders. With the election throwing up a single-party majority, Mr. Solih can push through his agenda with fewer stumbling blocks.

So far as India’s interests in the Indian Ocean Region are concerned, warm bilateral ties between New Delhi and Male are a high priority after five years of strategic drift that benefited Beijing considerably. According to some analyses, the surging influx of Chinese infrastructure investment under the Yameen administration may have caused the Maldives’ national debt to balloon to nearly a quarter of its GDP. As it seeks to unravel this web of Chinese loans, the new leadership has promised that what is owed would be paid. However, the honouring of such debt, especially where it was linked to the grant of land, lease rights and mega-construction projects, will be complicated. As Mr. Solih grapples with these challenges, the assurance that the Maldives has New Delhi’s backing would be vital. Already, the elements of a strategic reset with India seem to be falling into place. When Mr. Solih visited India in December, a $1.4 billion financial assistance package for the Maldives was announced, and the two governments agreed to exempt holders of diplomatic and official passports from visa requirements. MoUs on Indian grant aid for “high-impact community development projects” have been signed, as also agreements on clean energy and regional maritime security. So long as the new government presses on with the urgent task of rebuilding and deepening the Maldives’ democratic credentials, there is hope for political stability and economic development across the 1,192-island archipelago and the wider IOR.


Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 5:46:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/maldivian-wave/article26773818.ece

Next Story