New Delhi, Jan 10: In its latest report on the Maldives presidential elections held on September 9, the European Election Observation Mission revealed instances where the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives -Peoples National Congress or PPM-PNC attempted to spread disinformation about India.
According to the report, the PPM-PNC’s presidential campaign featured anti-Indian sentiments, driven by concerns over India’s influence and anxieties about the presence of Indian military personnel in the Maldives.
The report explicitly states, “Instances of derogatory language directed towards the president were observed on the part of PPM-PNC. Their campaign included anti-Indian sentiments, based on fears of Indian influences and anxiety regarding the presence of Indian military personnel inside the country. This theme was subject to multiple online disinformation attempts.”
The PPM, led by former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, had initiated the “India Out” campaign in 2020, demanding the expulsion of Indian military personnel from the Maldives. This campaign was, however, banned under a presidential decree issued by then-President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in April 2022.
After assuming office in November 2023, President Dr Mohamed Muizzu officially requested India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives. The Muizzu administration disclosed that there were 89 Indian military personnel in the country, a figure the previous administration had refused to disclose.
Despite the characterization of his predecessor Solih as a “pro-India” candidate, President Muizzu, initially perceived as “pro-China,” affirmed his commitment to maintaining ties with all foreign countries respecting Maldives’ independence and sovereignty, including India. He described himself as “pro-Maldives.”
The report also highlighted the role of religious authorities in the election process, stating, “Both Maldives democratic Party or MDP and PPM-PNC sometimes included religious authorities in their larger events, such as the state minister for Islamic Affairs on the side of the government in Addu, and scholars of the religious conservative organization Jamiyyath al-Salaf in support of Dr. Muizzu in Hulumalé.”
Additionally, it noted that the Salaf group, registered as a non-governmental organization, “promotes more conservative Islamic values than the Adhaalath Party,” and public perception based on their support was that a vote for Dr Muizzu could result in a stricter application of Islamic rules and education in the future, as observed by EU EOM observers.
Regarding the election dynamics, the report notes, “The challenger was able to extend his lead over the incumbent from the first round to the run-off, with a clear result of 54 to 46 per cent of the vote, in a turnout of 87 per cent for the run-off.” The election results were swiftly accepted by all parties, leading to the formation of a transition team to organize the handover of governmental affairs and the inauguration on November 17.