Reuters
 — 

Opposition candidate Mohamed Muizzu has won the Maldives presidential election, beating incumbent President Ibrahim Solih in a second-round runoff that could herald a pro-China shift for the Indian Ocean archipelago from traditional partner India.

With nearly all votes counted, the Elections Commission of the Maldives said on its website that Muizzu had received 54% of the ballots in Saturday’s vote, with 46% for Solih.

About 85% of 282,000 eligible voters in the Maldives, known for its pristine beaches and high-end resorts, turned up at more than 586 polling stations across 187 islands.

“I congratulate Muizzu for winning the election and thank the people for their exemplary democratic spirit,” Solih said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Solih, who championed an “India First” policy during his time in power, will remain as president until Muizzu’s inauguration on Nov. 17.

The coalition backing Muizzu has supported Chinese loans and investment projects in the past.

Former President Abdulla Yameen, who has close links to Muizzu, is serving an 11-year prison term for corruption and money laundering. Yameen’s supporters say the charges against him were politically motivated.

“Today the people made a strong decision to win back Maldives independence,” Muizzu told reporters in the capital, Male.

“All of us, working together with unity, Insha Allah, we will be successful.”

Muizzu also called on President Solih to release Yameen to house arrest.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a congratulatory message to Muizzu following the announcement of his victory.

“India remains committed to strengthening the time-tested India-Maldives bilateral relationship and enhancing our overall cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region,” Modi said on X.

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