The opposition coalition comprising the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC) has secured the top spot in Saturday’s Presidential Election, with incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih trailing closely behind.

The two candidates are set to face off in a run-off election scheduled for September 30. Unlike previous elections, no clear “kingmaker” emerged from the first round of voting.

In the 2008 and 2013 elections, the Jumhooree Party (JP) secured the third spot, wielding significant influence over the second round. This year, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) breakaway faction, The Democrats, came in third with just over 11,000 votes, potentially providing President Solih with an opportunity for a second term.

However, the MDP and The Democrats currently have divergent views, with the latter campaigning on a “Anyone but Solih” platform during the first round.

JP’s candidate Qasim Ibrahim, who held a kingmaker position in previous elections, failed to secure enough votes this time to influence the second round significantly. He had hinted that The Democrats might realign with their old allies for the run-off.

Muizzu held a 6% lead over Solih and could secure victory in the second round if he gains the backing of The Democrats.

Saturday’s election set a new low for voter turnout in the country’s democratic history. Of the 282,395 registered voters, only around 75% went to the polls in an election that also saw a record number of candidates.

Historical data reveals a downward trend in voter engagement. In the country’s first democratic election in 2008, turnout was at 86.5%. Subsequent elections maintained high turnout rates, reaching 91.4% in 2013 and 89.2% in 2018.

The only three candidates to surpass their registered party membership were Muizzu of the PPM/PNC, Solih of the MDP/JP/AP, and Labeeb of The Democrats.

Qasim, who has 22,607 registered members in his party, was unable to secure even 7,000 votes. Ahmed Faris Maumoon, who ran independently but is affiliated with the Maldives Reform Movement (MRM), and Mohamed Nazim, who has 9,828 members in his Maldives National Party (MNP), also failed to meet their membership thresholds.

Umar Naseer, who ran independently, came in fourth, and his supporters could be crucial for both leading candidates. Historically, Naseer has not endorsed any candidates in a run-off, but only time will tell if the 2023 presidential race will bring more surprises.