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Maldives - Politics

The modern history of the Maldives is tumultuous. Maldives has a history of political protests. Gangs of young men frequently stage spontaneous protests throughout Mal, often at night. Some of these protests have involved use of anti-western rhetoric. Mohamed Nasheed - the Maldives' first democratically elected leader - was elected to office in 2008 in the country's first free election that ended decades of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Two repeated Presidential Elections have shown how delicate the balance of politics is in the country. If anything, it demonstrated in quite a forthright manner the degree of divergence of opinion. No one party could quite get a majority and both times a messy coalition; with tragic results, were necessary to win a majority.

Democracy is clearly in its infancy in Maldives. There is marked uncertainty as both the government and the opposition movement face unfamiliar challenges and responsibilities that come with their new roles in the democratic process. The government's primary concern is ensuring its survival, which it believes is threatened by weak institutions and a fractious opposition that has called for its overthrow.

Possibly in keeping with its more traditional culture, the country long had a highly centralized presidential government, based on its 1968 constitution. Members of the unicameral Majlis, or legislature, also serve five-year terms; forty were elected, and eight were appointed by the president. The president, who exercised control over most aspects of the country, also held the posts of minister of defense and minister of finance. Political parties were officially discouraged as contrary to homogeneity. There were no organized political parties in the country. Candidates ran as independents on the basis of personal qualifications.

Although Maldives had no organized political competition in the Western sense, partisan conflict occurred behind the scenes. Battles were intensely fought on the basis of factional or personal alliances among elite circles. For more than twenty years, until late 1978, the dominant faction had been led by former President Nasir, who ran the government with a firm hand and who seldom appeared in public. His sudden departure from Maldives, subsequently revealed as connected with malfeasance, ended a political era.

On October 8, 2008, Maldives held its first multi-party Presidential election. Parliamentary elections were held in May 2009. The country also launched a new constitution in 2008 and a series of new laws subsequently, including the first comprehensive employment act.

Although the Maldives underwent a democratic transformation in 2008 with the free and fair election of a new President and Parliament, the country continues to experience political upheaval.

On February 7, 2013, President Nasheed resigned, following three weeks of opposition protests over the military detention of a criminal court judge. Vice President Waheed was sworn into office as President. After claims by President Nasheed that he was forced to resign, and that the change was brought about by a coup, President Waheed set up a Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), with international representatives as well as a representative from former President Nasheeds party, to establish the facts of the transfer of power.

The CoNI, on 30 August 2013, concluded that the transfer of power was constitutional, noted the need for strengthening democratic institutions, and cited cases of police misconduct during the unrest in February 2012. Former President Nasheed accepted the CoNI conclusions with reservations. In July 2012, former President Nasheed was charged with the unlawful detention of a judge.

Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, was elected president in 2013, and his administration has turned increasingly autocratic. In March 2015, former President Nasheed was jailed for a 13-year term on contentious terrorism charges. The former defense minister and several other political dissidents have been imprisoned as well, and the Maldives Bar Association has been dissolved.

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Page last modified: 06-04-2019 18:48:02 ZULU