The British Protectorate of Maldives became
an independent nation on July 26, 1965. Three years
later, a constitution was adopted which made the country
a republic. In 1978, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom became
president, a post he held until 2008. During Gayoom,
opposites were subjected to repression, but his period
in power was also characterized by a rapid economic
upturn. 2008 started a democratization.
At independence, Britain acquired the right to retain
the air base on the island of Gan in southern Maldives.
The air base remained British until 1976.
In 1968, Amir Ibrahim Nasir, who had been prime
minister since 1957, was elected the first independent
Maldives president. Nasir announced in 1978 that he
would not run for re-election. His former Minister of
Communications and UN Ambassador Maumun Abdul Gayum
became President the same year after a referendum. Nasir
was accused of stealing money from the Treasury and
leaving the country.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Maldives. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Gayum ruled the country with authoritarian methods.
Regime criticism was not tolerated and political parties
were banned. Gayum in 1980 accused Nasir of being
involved in a failed coup attempt. Ten years later,
Gayum pardoned his representative, citing his efforts
for Maldives independence.
A coup attempt is averted
A more serious attempt to oust President Gayum was
made in 1988, when some 80 mercenaries went ashore in
the capital Malé, capturing several ministers and senior
officials. Gayum managed to hide and make contact with
the Indian government, which sent soldiers to Malé. The
coup attempt was averted in a few hours but still
required about 20 casualties. The mercenaries were
reported to be members of a Tamil separatist movement in
Sri Lanka and hired by a Maldivian businessman.
During the 1990s, signs of political thunderstorms
began to appear. Gayum talked about sharing power, but
several setbacks occurred and government critics
continued to be persecuted. Opposition people were
imprisoned or banished to uninhabited atolls.
In fact, Gayum maintained a firm grip on power. He
secured his position, among other things, by providing
key posts to close family members. Several of his
brothers sat in the government.
After the deaths in connection with a 2003 prison
riot, riots broke out in Malé. It helped Gayum to
initiate political reforms. In May 2004, an assembly was
appointed with the task of proposing a new, more
democratic constitution. Many observers saw it as a
result of both domestic demands and foreign attention
about political oppression.
On December 26, 2004, the Maldives was hit by the
huge tidal waves (tsunami) caused by a powerful
earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Almost the entire
island, including Malé, temporarily landed under the
sea. The consequences became less severe than elsewhere
due to the coral reefs around the islands dampening the
flood waves. About 100 people were killed. One third of
the population was affected in some way by the disaster:
housing was damaged or destroyed, and many were
temporarily without water and food.
Political parties are allowed
In June 2005, Parliament approved a government
proposal to allow political parties to operate within
the country. The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP),
which had been formed a few years earlier, was among the
first to register. President Gayum founded the Maldivian
People's Party (DRP).
Violent crows erupted again in Malé in April 2007
after a man was found dead in the port district. The man
was a supporter of the MDP, who said he had evidence
that he had been beaten to death in a police raid. An
autopsy performed in Sri Lanka later showed that the man
died by drowning. The death sparked strong feelings
among the country's regime opponents and people went out
on the capital's streets and threw stones and other
things at the police and set "public property" on fire.
In August 2007, a referendum was held on the new
constitution that was being drafted. The question was
whether the country would have a British model
parliamentary system, or US presidential rule. President
Gayum and his party DRP advocated the latter option,
which also won by a wide margin.
In September 2007, a simple explosive charge exploded
in a park next to Malé's largest mosque. Twelve foreign
tourists were injured in the bombing, which was the
first of its kind in the Maldives. Three men were later
sentenced to 15 years in prison for the assault. They
must have acknowledged that the purpose was to harm
non-Muslims and disrupt the tourism industry. Gayum
proclaimed that it was necessary to begin taking force
against militant Islamists.
New democratic constitution
The new democratic constitution of the Maldives came
into force in August 2008. It happened after just over
four years of debate in Parliament. The most important
changes in the constitution were that the legislative,
executive and judicial powers were separated and that a
number of fundamental freedoms and rights were included
in the constitution (see Political system).
The constitution also provided for multi-party to be
held. The first Democratic presidential election was
held in October 2008. Gayum was running in the hope of
securing a seventh term. A further five candidates
stood, including Democratic activist and MDP leader
Mohamed Nashid, who had been imprisoned more than 20
times during Gayum's time in power.
In the first round, Gayum received 40 percent of the
vote against 25 percent for Nashid, while the others
split the rest. Since no one received at least half of
the voters' votes, a second round of voting was held.
Now Nashid won with 54 percent of the vote against 46
percent for Gayum.
As a result, Gayum's 30-year reign was broken by one
of his sharpest critics and power shifted to the
opposition within the MDP. The new president initially
received a lot of attention in the outside world,
including when he promised that within ten years the
Maldives would become the world's first country to
completely stop greenhouse gas emissions. While the
Maldives' share of global emissions is minimal, Nashid
wanted to make a political mark. As another symbolic
act, Nashid held a government meeting four meters below
the sea level in a lagoon. All ministers were dressed in
But Nashid's time as president was soon marked by
constant adversity. In the parliamentary elections held
in May 2009, Gayum's party DRP became the largest and
could, by allying itself with small parties and
independent members, set the wheels for the MDP
government's reform program.
Political contradictions grew when President Nashid
in early 2012 allowed the chief judge to arrest the
country's criminal court, which he considered hindered
corruption investigations against top politicians in the
DRP. The arrest led to a protest storm against Nashid,
who announced his departure in February. According to
Nashid himself, he was forced to leave the presidential
post following threats from the military and police.
However, the circumstances surrounding his departure
Nashid was succeeded by his Vice President Wahid
Hassan, who formed a government with many veteran
politicians from Gayum's time in power. Nashid refused
to acknowledge the new rulers.
In the summer of 2012, Nashid was indicted for
dismissing the chief judge on illegal grounds. He was
arrested in early 2013 but could still run in the
presidential election in the fall of that year. However,
the election process became something of a father's.
When it became clear that Nashid won the first round,
the second round was postponed and eventually the entire
election was annulled. It was delayed a few more times
before it was finally implemented in November. Nashid
again won the first round but was defeated by Gayum's
half brother Abdulla Yamin in the second.
Yamin's new party, the Maldives Progressive Party
(PPM), also won the parliamentary elections held in
Conflict around the Supreme Court
In early 2015, Nashid was sentenced to 13 years in
prison for violating the terrorist laws when he deposed
the chief judge. The ruling was criticized by both the
opposition and human rights organizations.
An explosion aboard President Yamin's boat in
September 2015 led to Vice President Ahmed Adib being
arrested a month later, suspected of treason. According
to the US FBI, however, there was no evidence that it
was an attack. The explosion occurred shortly after a
number of government officials were dismissed, including
the Minister of Defense.
In February 2018, the Supreme Court (HD) made a
couple of decisions that came to have political
consequences. HD unexpectedly acquitted Nashid and eight
other opposition politicians from the crimes they were
convicted of and ordered that the trials be redone.
Former Vice President Ahmed Adib also had his sentence
annulled. The reason was that, according to HD, their
lawsuits violated the Constitution and international
The HD also decided that twelve former MPs who were
kicked out of the legislative assembly by Yamin when
they resigned from his party would regain their seats.
Among them was Ahmed Adib. The decision meant that the
opposition would regain the majority in Parliament.
Yamin wins the power struggle
President Yamin responded to the HD decisions by
dismissing the Chief of Police since he said that the
imprisoned politicians would be released. On the streets
of Malé, rattles broke out. The situation worsened when
a few days later the government disbanded Parliament to
prevent Yamin from being brought before the national
Then the government announced that it did not intend
to allow the imprisoned politicians to be released. The
riots increased when President Gayum unexpectedly was
arrested, suspected of bribing two of the HD judges in
order to overthrow the government. The two half-brothers
Yamin and Gayum were now political enemies.
At dawn on February 6, 2018, security forces stormed
the Supreme Court and seized Chief Judge Abdulla Said
and another judge. According to police, they were
suspected of bribery. Yamin then introduced a state of
emergency, which was claimed on March 22.
Gayum is imprisoned
The following day, the Supreme Court's remaining
three judges upheld the decision to annul the lawsuits
against opposition politicians, including Nashid, who
was in exile. On February 19, the three HD judges
withdrew the decision that the twelve excluded
opposition parliamentarians should get their seats back.
President Yamin thus seemed to have won the acute
phase of the ongoing political power struggle. With
large parts of the opposition imprisoned or in exile,
the government announced in June 2018 that presidential
elections would be held in September of that year.
A few days later, Gayum was sentenced to 19 months in
prison for trying to stop the investigation into the
alleged conspiracy against Yamin. According to the
court, Gayum refused to give investigators access to
detailed information on his mobile phone.