When and from which the Maldives were first populated is still unclear, but the islands were probably known and inhabited by seafarers from India and Sri Lanka at least from the middle of the first millennium BC. The even earlier dates proposed by Thor Heyerdahl after exposing extensive remnants from the pre-Islamic period in the 1980s have not been widely accepted.
The Maldives were probably reached by Islam in the 12th century. The islands played a certain role as intermediate stations for maritime merchants. Economically they were almost entirely dependent on fishing, politically they were governed by a hereditary sultanate with a seat on the main island of Male. The islands were often ravaged by pirates. The Maldives were controlled by the Portuguese during periods in the mid-1500s, ended up under Dutch supremacy in the mid-1600s, were nominally taken over by the British in 1796, and were granted the status of the British protectorate in 1887. No actual colonization was ever carried out. The Maldives became independent in 1965. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Maldives. The hereditary Sultanate was abolished and a republic was established in 1968. Since then, contacts with the outside world have increased, and an investment in the tourism industry has been carried out. This has resulted in increased wealth, but also in growing internal contradictions.
In 1988, a coup attempt was averted with the help of Indian troops. Vague information about other coup attempts was sometimes taken to income to imprison political opponents of the president. International human rights organizations labeled the Maldives as a police state, and freedom of speech had severe restrictions. In the early 2000s, a slow political opening took place and a democratic constitution was promised. A prisoner revolt in 2003, however, triggered heavy riots, which underlined the strong political tension. The tsunami disaster that hit the countries around the Indian Ocean in December 2004 caused great material havoc even in the Maldives Several of the country’s tourist facilities, which accounted for a significant portion of the gross domestic product, were destroyed.
When general elections were held in January 2005, the opposition still formally banned its biggest success to date. The election results paved the way for the breakthrough of democracy. Opposition leader Mohamed Nashid from the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) was able to return from exile and political parties were allowed to be formed. However, the regime was still trying to slow down the development, and only in 2007 was a referendum on a new constitution. Thereafter, the presidential elections were held in 2008, during which former political prisoner Nashid surprisingly won.
Nashid gave the Maldives international attention through its work to raise climate issues, and the threat that rising sea levels pose to the low-lying island. However, domestic politics faced Nashid problems, in part because many senior officials and politicians were still loyal to former President Maumun Abdul Gayum (born 1937). In the 2009 election, Gayum’s party DRP together with support parties gained a majority in parliament, which further undermined Nashid’s presidency.
Political turmoil escalated in the following years and in 2012 Nashid resigned. He was succeeded by Vice President Mohamed Wahid Hassan, who formed a new government which also included the DRP. In 2013, a new presidential election was held. Nashid re-elected to the post. After a messy election that had to be reversed because of electoral fraud and unrest, Nashid was defeated by Abdulla Yamin (born 1959) related to Gayum. In the subsequent parliamentary elections, Yamin’s party received the largest support of the Maldives Progressive Party (PPM).
In the years to come, Yamin strengthened its hold on power, including by letting go or otherwise silencing opposition politicians. Increasing opposition to the regime prompted Yamin to announce a state of emergency in 2018. However, this year’s presidential election was held as planned and resulted in a historically great victory for Ibrahim Muhamed Solih (born 1962).