1978 - Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
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 reelected in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and again in October 2003. After Gayoom was reelected to a fourth five-year term as president in national elections in 1993, his principal rival, Ilyas Ibrahim, was sentenced to fifteen years' banishment after being found guilty of "treason" because of his attempts to win the presidency.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a former cabinet member and diplomat, took office on November 11, 1978, after a peaceful election. The new president pledged to admin- ister the country in a fair and more open manner by restoring civil rights, by establishing rapport at the grass-roots level, and by remedying the long neglect of popular welfare in the outer islands. However, criticism of alleged nepotism and corruption continued through the 1980s and 1990s.
On November 8, 1988, Sri Lankan Tamil mercenaries tried to overthrow the Maldivian Government. At President Gayoom's request, the Indian military suppressed the coup attempt within 24 hours. In September 2003, following the death of an inmate, a brief prison riot broke out on an island near the capital, Male. Three other inmates were killed during the incident. In response to the killings of the inmates, brief rioting took place on the streets of Male.
Under Gayoom, the government often prevented opposition rallies from taking place. President Gayoom's commitment to introduce political reforms in June 2004 was widely welcomed. A human rights commission was established, and a special Majlis, or parliament, was convened to consider changes in the constitution, including the legalization of political parties. In August 2004, however, a demonstration in the capital turned violent and the government declared an emergency and arrested a large number said to be connected to the protest. Some of those arrested were prominent in the reform movement, including several members of the special Majlis. Most were released a few months later.
Maldives was badly hit by the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, which killed 82 and caused substantial damage to Maldives tourism, housing, and fishing infrastructure. The U.S. provided $1.6 million in immediate relief assistance. Despite the disaster, the Government of Maldives held parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for December 31, on January 22, 2005. Reform candidates performed strongly. Following the poll, President Gayoom announced plans to establish multiparty democracy within a year.
In June 2005, the members of the People's Majlis unanimously voted to legally recognize political parties. In order of registration the first parties were the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, the Dhivehi Raiyyethunge Party, the Adhaalath (Justice) Party, and the Islamic Democratic Party. More recently, a number of other parties formed, including the Social Liberal Party, the Maldivian National Congress, the Maldives Social Democratic Party, and the Republican Party. Some of these appear to have minimal public backing. In 2011, Gayoom left the DRP over disagreements with its President, Thasmeen Ali, and formed the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).
Throughout 2006, the opposition faced restrictions on freedom of assembly, and the government continued to arrest opposition activists. In March 2006, the government introduced a "Roadmap for Reform" and subsequently introduced several bills in parliament. In August 2007, voters decided via referendum that the Maldives' new constitution should provide for a presidential system of government (vice parliamentary). The special Majlis completed its work and the new constitution took effect in August 2008.
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