The presidential elections in the Maldives appear to be heading towards a runoff round as the two leading candidates were unable to secure more than 50% of the vote on Saturday.
The official results of the first round are due to be out on Sunday.
However, preliminary results showed incumbent President Ibrahim Solih trailing behind his main rival Mohamed Muiz, with the former securing some 40% of the vote, as opposed to 46% for the latter.
The country’s Elections Commission had scheduled a run off between the first two candidates on September 30.
A vote on India’s involvement?
The presidential race is widely seen as a vote on India’s involvement in the country. As a prime benefactor, India has inched much closer under Solih’s “India-first” approach during his first term. The country also enjoys a small military presence in the Maldives archipelago.
Muiz, who is seen as the protege of former President Abdullah Yameen, has meanwhile promoted an “India out” campaign, and is expected to bring the country back to Beijing’s fold, as was the case during Yameen’s rule.
Muiz has also vowed to remove India’s military presence in the Maldives.
Yameen, who would have been Solih’s most serious contender, was banned from taking part in the vote by the Supreme Court, after he was convicted of corruption and money laundering.
Solih’s share in the vote has been dented after a member of his Maldivian Democratic Party, Mohamed Nasheed, broke away and fielded his own candidate. The candidate, Ilyas Labeeb, has barely secured 7% of the vote.