The Maldives was long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. It became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM dominated the islands' political scene for 30 years, elected to six successive terms by single-party referendums. Following riots in the capital Male in August 2004, the president and his government pledged to embark upon democratic reforms including a more representative political system and expanded political freedoms. Progress was sluggish, however, and many promised reforms were slow to be realized. Nonetheless, political parties were legalized in 2005. In June 2008, a constituent assembly - termed the "Special Majlis" - finalized a new constitution, which was ratified by the president in August. The first-ever presidential elections under a multi-candidate, multi-party system were held in October 2008. GAYOOM was defeated in a runoff poll by Mohamed NASHEED, a political activist who had been jailed several years earlier by the former regime. Challenges facing the new president include strengthening democracy and combating poverty and drug abuse. Maldives officials have been prominent participants in international climate change talks due to the islands' low elevation and the threat from sea-level rise.
chief of state: President Mohamed "Anni" NASHEED (since 11 November 2008); Vice President Mohamed WAHEED Hassan Maniku (since 11 November 2008); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government:
President Mohamed "Anni" NASHEED (since 11 November 2008); Vice President Mohamed WAHEED Hassan Maniku (since 11 November 2008)
Cabinet of Ministers is appointed by the president
under the new constitution, the president elected by direct vote; president elected for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 8 and 28 October 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
Mohamed NASHEED elected president; percent of vote - NASHEED 54.3%, Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM 45.7%
unicameral People's Council or People's Majlis (77 seats; members elected by direct vote to serve five-year terms); note - the Majlis in February 2009 passed legislation that increased the number of seats to 77 from 50
last held on 9 May 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
percent of vote - DRP 36.4%, MDP 33.8 %, PA 9.1%, DQP 2.6% Republican Party 1.2%, independents 16.9%; seats by party - DRP 28, MDP 26, PA 7, DQP 2, Republican Party 1, independents 13
Supreme Court; Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president with approval of voting members of the People's Council; High Court; Trial Courts; all lower court judges are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission
Adhaalath (Justice) Party or AP [Abdul Majeed Abdul BARI]; Dhivehi Quamee Party or DQP [Hassan SAEED]; Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (Maldivian People's Party) or DRP [Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM]; Islamic Democratic Party or IDP [Umar NASEER]; Maldivian Democratic Party or MDP [Mariya DIDI]; People's Alliance or PA [Abdullah YAMEEN]; Republican (Jumhooree) Party [Gasim IBRAHIM]; Social Liberal Party or SLP [Mazlan RASHEED]
red with a large green rectangle in the center bearing a vertical white crescent moon; the closed side of the crescent is on the hoist side of the flag; red recalls those who have sacrificed their lives in defense of their country, the green rectangle represents peace and prosperity, and the white crescent signifies Islam
Tourism, Maldives' largest economic activity, accounts for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Fishing is the second leading sector. Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a lesser role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labor. Most staple foods must be imported. The Maldivian Government implemented economic reforms, beginning in 1989 that initially lifted import quotas, opened some exports to the private sector, and liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment. Real GDP growth averaged over 7.5% per year for more than a decade, and registered 18% in 2006, due to a rebound in tourism and reconstruction following the tsunami of December 2004. GDP slowed in 2007-08, then contracted in 2009 due to the global recession. Falling tourist arrivals and fish exports, combined with high government spending on social needs, subsidies, and civil servant salaries contributed to a balance of payments crisis, which was eased with a December 2009, $79.3 million dollar IMF standby agreement. Diversifying the economy beyond tourism and fishing, reforming public finance, and increasing employment opportunities are major challenges facing the government. Over the longer term Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and possible global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is 1 meter or less above sea level.
state-owned radio and television monopoly until recently; by mid-2008 there were 5 radio broadcast stations operating; first private cable TV channel now operational with an additional 4 private TV channels in the regulatory pipeline (2008)
the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), with its small size and with little serviceable equipment, is inadequate to prevent external aggression and is primarily tasked to reinforce the Maldives Police Service (MPS) and ensure security in the exclusive economic zone (2008)