Maldives is a country located in the region of Southern Asia. After 30 years of dictatorship under Maumoon Abdul Gayum, the Maldives in 2008 gained a new democratic constitution. The same year, free elections were held, which led to the opposition coming to power through democracy activist Mohamed Nashid and his party MDP. The decade afterwards was marked by political chaos when the clan Gayum regained power and large parts of the opposition were again imprisoned or forced into exile. The astonishment of the world therefore became great when the MDP won both the 2018 presidential election and the parliamentary election the following year.
When the presidential election was announced in June 2018 until September of the same year, the Maldives was ruled by the dictator Gayum’s half-brother, President Abdulla Yamin, and his party, the Maldives Progressive Party (PPM). The former ally and now the arch-enemy Gayum were jailed, condemned for making the police investigation into an alleged conspiracy against Yamin. The opposition within the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was weakened by the fact that leader Nashid was in exile and that several of the party’s top politicians were imprisoned.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Maldives, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Yamin ran for re-election on behalf of the PPM, while the MDP agreed on candidate Ibrahim Muhamed Solih, a relatively unknown MP. Solih promised improved relations to the western world if he became president, and that oppositionists would be allowed to return home from exile or be released from prisons. Solih criticized the Yamin government’s close ties to China and warned of the Maldives’ growing economic dependence on Beijing, which provided large loans to the small country.
During the election campaign, Solih was given little space in the media and on election morning, the police carried out a raid on MDP’s campaign headquarters in Malé in search of “illegal activities”. No people were arrested.
No independent election observers were allowed to attend and only a few foreign media were allowed to monitor the election. Everything indicated that Yamin had the rolling victory in his hand.
The surprise, therefore, became great among analysts when the official result showed that Solih received just over 58 percent of the vote and thus secured the victory already in the first round of elections. It was the biggest electoral victory since democracy was introduced, and Yamin acknowledged defeated. The US, India and China with several congratulated Solih for the victory. He took office as President on November 17 and formed a broad coalition government involving several smaller parties, including PPM.
Solih urged the outgoing President Yamin immediately after the election victory to release all political prisoners. A few days after the election, five political prisoners were released, while it took a few more days before 80-year-old Gayum was allowed to leave prison. This happened after Yamin secured the chairmanship of the PPM. In October, the verdict against Gayum was upheld. The fugitive Nashid returned to his home country in November, and the same month the Supreme Court annulled the prison sentence against him (see Modern History).
When parliamentary elections were held in April 2019, the MDP received a full 75 percent of the vote and its own majority in the legislative assembly. Party leader Mohamed Nashid promised far-reaching political reforms and an end to corruption in politics. President Yamin’s party PPM received only 5 seats. In November, Yamin was sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering.
Alongside the power struggle within the Gayum family, as well as the struggle between the Gayum family and the opposition within the MDP, the Maldives policy mainly concerns economic issues, such as high cost of living and rising unemployment.
Climate change is another key issue, as the Maldives is one of the most threatened countries. None of the country’s nearly 1,200 islands reach higher than 1.8 meters above sea level, which makes them vulnerable if the level in the world ocean rises due to the greenhouse effect.
In the Maldives there is also an increased activity among Islamic fundamentalists who have organized several demonstrations and carried out acts of violence. There are fears that militant Islamism will gain a foothold, not least on the most remote islands.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
READING TIP – read more about the Maldives in UI’s web magazine Foreign Magazine:
Pandemic honors militant Islamism in tourist paradise (2020-05-27)
FACTS – POLITICS
Divehi Jumhuriyya / Republic of Maldives
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Ibrahim Muhamed Solih (2018–)
Head of government
President Ibrahim Muhamed Solih (2018–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) 65, Maldives Progressive Party (PPM) 8, Republican Party (RP) 5, Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) 2, Independent Candidates 7 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Maldives Progressive Party (PPM) 33, Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) 26, Republican Party (RP) 15, Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) 5, Justice Party (JP) 1, Independent Candidates 5 (2014)
89% in the 2018 presidential election; 78% in the 2019 parliamentary elections
presidential elections 2023, parliamentary elections 2024