The hotly contested 2023 Presidential Election in the Maldives has set a new record for the lowest voter turnout in the nation’s democratic history.

Of the 282,395 registered voters, only 75% went to the polls on 9 September in an election that also featured an unprecedented number of candidates.

The decline in turnout might be attributable to voter morale, which, in previous elections, was galvanised by a collective will to overthrow the incumbent.

This year, candidates and parties are contesting independently, lacking the common goal of removing the sitting president. This contrasts with earlier years, when opposition parties united behind a singular agenda.

Internal divisions within political parties could also be a contributing factor. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has split into two factions, with its breakaway group, The Democrats, running against them.

The largest opposition group, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), and its affiliate, the People’s National Congress (PNC), faced disappointment when their paramount leader, former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, was barred from running due to a criminal conviction.

Disagreements over a proxy candidate for the PPM/PNC have led to internal discontent, potentially contributing to the low turnout.

Historical data shows a decline in voter engagement. In 2008, the first year the Maldives voted under a democratic constitution, the turnout was 86.5%. In subsequent elections, the country saw high engagement, with a turnout rate of 91.4% in 2013 and 89.2% in 2018.

As all ballot boxes are now closed, initial results indicate an extremely close race between incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the MDP and Mohamed Muizzu of the PPM/PNC.