Neha Patil (Editor)

Politics of the Maldives

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Politics of the Maldives

The politics of the Maldives take place in the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the Head of Government. Executive power is exercised by the government. The President heads the executive branch and appoints the Cabinet; Like many presidential democracies, each member of the cabinet need to be approved by the Parliament. The President, along with the Vice President, is directly elected by the people to a five-year term by a secret ballot. He could be re-elected to second 5-year term, the limit allowed by the Constitution. The current President of the Maldives is Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who was sworn into office on February 7, 2012 when his predecessor, Mohamed Nasheed resigned following weeks of protests led by police. Nasheed reportedly resigned involuntarily to forestall an escalation of violence, and was placed under house arrest.


Map of Maldives

The unicameral Majlis of the Maldives is composed of 77 members serving a five-year term. The total number of the members representing each constituency depends on the total population of that constituency. The last parliamentary election under the new constitution was held on May 9, 2009. A total of 465 candidates - 211 from 11 political parties and 254 independents - were vying for seats in the People's Majlis. The 2009 elections were the first multi-party elections in the country. During the election, 78.87% of the 209,000 registered voters turned out at the polls. The final results gave the DRP and the PA 28 and seven seats respectively, three short of a parliamentary majority. The MDP became the second largest party, winning 26 seats. The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and the Republican Party (RP) took two seats and one seat respectively. The remaining 13 seats went to independent candidates. The Commonwealth observers who monitored the elections said that they were "well-conducted". The newly elected People's Majlis held its first session on 28 May and elected Mr. Abdulla Shahid (DRP) as its new Speaker.

The Maldivian legal system is derived mainly from traditional Islamic law. There is a Supreme Court with 5 judges including the Chief Justice.The Chief Justice is appointed by the President, with the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission. Parliament is required to approve the appointment before he assumes office. There is a Supreme Court, High Court (Two branches), a Criminal Court, Civil Court, Family Court, Juvenile Court, Drug Court and many Lower Courts in each Atoll/Island. An Attorney General is part of the Cabinet and also needs the approval of Parliament before taking office.

Under the new constitution, the function of Local Government is devolved to an Atoll Council to administer each atoll and an Island Council to administer each inhabited island. Island councilors are elected by the people of each island, and the Atoll Councilors are in turn elected by the Island Councilors.


A 1968 referendum approved a constitution making Maldives a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The constitution was amended in 1970, 1972, 1975, and 1997 and again in 2008

Ibrahim Nasir, Prime Minister under the pre-1968 sultanate, became President and held office from 1968 to 1978. He was succeeded by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was elected President in 1978 and re-elected in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003. At the end of his presidency, he was the longest serving leader in Asia.

On November 3, 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries tried to overthrow the Maldivian government. At President Gayoom's request, the Indian military intervened and provided assistance in suppressing the attempt within 24 hours.

Since 2003, following the death in custody of a prisoner, Naseem, the Maldives experienced several anti-government demonstrations calling for political reforms, more freedoms, and an end to torture and oppression. As a result of these activities, political parties were eventually allowed in June 2005. The main parties registered in Maldives are: the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP), the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and the Adhaalath Party, also known as the Adhaalath Party. The first party to register was the MDP headed by popular opposition figures such as Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) and Mohamed Latheef (Gogo). The next was the Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) headed by then-President Gayoom.

The Maldives have scored poorly on some indices of freedom. The "Freedom in the World" index, a measure of political rights and civil liberties published by Freedom House, judged Maldives as "not free" until May 1, 2009, when it was raised to "partly free". The "Worldwide Press Freedom Index", published by Reporters Without Borders, lists Maldives as a "very serious situation" (a judgment also given to Libya, Cuba, and China).

Violent protests broke out in Malé on September 20, 2003 after Evan Naseem, a prisoner, was killed in Maafushi Prison, after the most brutal torture, by prison staff. An attempt to cover up the death was foiled when the mother of the dead man discovered the marks of torture on his body and made the knowledge public, therefore triggering the riots. A subsequent disturbance at the prison resulted in three deaths when police guards at the prison opened fire on unarmed inmates. Several government buildings were set on fire during the riots. As a result of pressure from reformists, the junior prison guards responsible for Naseem's death were subsequently tried, convicted and sentenced in 2005 in what was believed to be a show trial that avoided the senior officers involved being investigated. The report of an inquiry into the prison shootings was heavily censored by the Government, citing "national security" grounds. Pro-reformists claim this was in order to cover-up the chain of authority and circumstances that led to the killings.

There were fresh protests on August 13, 2004, (Black Friday), which appear to have begun as a demand for the release of four political activists from detention. Up to 5,000 demonstrators were involved. After two police officers were reportedly stabbed, allegedly by government agents provocateurs, President Gayoom declared a State of Emergency and suppressed the demonstration, suspending all human rights guaranteed under the Constitution, banning demonstrations and the expression of views critical of the government. At least 250 pro-reform protesters were arrested. As part of the state of emergency, and to prevent independent reporting of events, the government shut off Internet access and some mobile telephony services to Maldives on August 13 and 14, 2004.

A new Constitution was ratified in August 2008, paving the way for the country's first multi-party presidential election two months later.

An October 2009 cabinet meeting was held underwater (ministers wore scuba gear and communicated with hand signals) to publicise to the wider world the threat of global warming on the low-lying islands of the Maldives.

Post-2008: Democratic constitutional era

On 29 June 2010, every minister in the cabinet resigned from their posts; excluding president Mohamed Nasheed and vice president. Political experts criticized this act, saying that this was a move by President Nasheed to gain the decreasing public support and to silence the voices of the opposition by threatening them. Note: the president is both the chief of state and head of government

Public protests against the President in 2011 and early 2012 were triggered by the arrest of a judge accused of corruption, which drew the judiciary into opposition.

The resignation under pressure of President Nasheedh on 7 February 2012, described by his supporters as a coup that returns the nation to prior President Gayoom's control, drew wide international attention due to Nasheedh's high-profile efforts worldwide to promote carbon-neutral environmental policies.

Legislative branch

The Majlis of the Maldives (assembly) has 85 members elected by the people.

Political parties and elections

On a national level, Maldives elects a head of state - the president - and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term by parliament and confirmed in a referendum by the people. In this referendum on 17 October 2003, 90.3% voted in favour of then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (turnout 77%). At the last parliamentary elections, 22 January 2005, only non-partisans have been elected. Until 2005 (after the election), no legal parties existed. Out of the 42 elected parliamentaries, according to Adam Carr, 20 (32.3% of popular vote) support the government and 18 (31.1% of popular vote) are endorsed by the Maldivian Democratic Party.

The Maldivian parliament voted unanimously for the creation of a multiparty system on June 2, 2005. Prior to June 2005, the Maldivian political system was based on the election of individuals, rather than the more common system of election according to party platform. In June 2005, as part of an ongoing programme of democratic reform, new regulations were promulgated to formally recognised political parties within the framework of the electoral system. The Maldivian Democratic Party was already active. New parties include the Progressive Party of Maldives, Maldivian Peoples Party, the Islamic Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party.

On October 8, 2008, the country held its first ever multi-party presidential election.

Judicial branch

The legal system is based on Islamic law with admixtures of English common law primarily in commercial matters. Maldives has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.

Administrative divisions

20 atolls (atholhu, singular and plural) and one first-order administrative city*;Alif Alif, Alif Dhaal, Baa, Dhaalu, Faafu, Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Laamu, Lhaviyani, Kaafu, Meemu, Noonu, Raa, Seenu, Shaviyani, Thaa, Vaavu

International organization participation

AsDB, C, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, International Monetary Fund, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, SAARC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, World Health Organization, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Governmental agencies

  • Ministry of Islamic Affairs
  • References

    Politics of the Maldives Wikipedia