Voters in the Maldives are casting their ballots in a presidential run-off that could determine the fate of the Indian Ocean archipelago’s nascent democracy as well as its ties with China and India.
The election on Saturday pits President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who has championed an India-first policy, against the mayor of the capital, Mohamed Muizzu, whose opposition coalition sought closer ties with China and oversaw a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent while in power from 2013-18.
Muizzu emerged as the surprise frontrunner during the first round of voting on September 8, taking some 46 percent of the ballots cast. Solih – hurt by low voter turnout and a split within his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – won 39 percent.
But with the incumbent leader seeking to galvanise voters with additional pledges of handouts, including housing and wage hikes, observers say the outcome of Saturday’s run-off looks too close to call.
Polling opened at 8am local time (03:00 GMT) and will close at 5pm (12:00 GMT). Vote counting begins immediately afterwards, and the results will likely be known within hours.
Some 282,804 people in the country of 500,000 people are eligible to vote.
As voting continues, here’s what you need to know about the Maldives’s high-stakes election.