Freedom in the World
You are here
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The Maldives’ political rights rating improved from 4 to 3 due to largely fair and competitive legislative elections held in May 2009.
Building on a historic transfer of power after the 2008 presidential election, the Maldives continued its democratic opening in 2009 with May legislative elections that were considered to be largely free and fair. A strong showing by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Maldivian People’s Party ensured that the new parliament would remain balanced by competing political factions, but raised questions about Mohamed Nasheed’s administration’s ability to implement its ambitious reform agenda. The political transition was accompanied by a significantly improved environment for freedoms of expression and association, but corruption, religious restrictions, and abysmal prison conditions remained serious problems.
In the May 2009 parliamentary elections, Gayoom’s Maldivian People’s Party (DRP) won 28 of 77 seats, while the MDP won 26, the DRP-allied People’s Alliance (PA) took 7, and independents garnered 13. A Commonwealth observer team characterized the voting as largely transparent and competitive, with a turnout of 79 percent. The DRP’s strong showing—and the election of DRP member Abdullah Shahid and PA member Ahmed Nazim as speaker and deputy speaker, respectively, of the new Majlis—raised questions about the ability of the government to push through its ambitious reform agenda.
The Republic of Maldives is an electoral democracy. The first democratic presidential election in 2008 was deemed relatively free and fair, although observers reported flaws including some preelection violence, a compressed timeframe, and voter registration problems. The interim election commission established prior to the vote was considered generally professional, transparent, and impartial. Parliamentary elections held in May 2009 were also judged to be largely credible despite minor problems related to the compilation of the voters’ list as well as some intimidation and other irregularities.
Women, who enjoy a 98 percent literacy rate, are increasingly entering the civil service and receiving pay equal to that of men, though traditional norms still limit opportunities for many women. Women hold few senior positions in the government, but there are five female members of parliament, and Nasheed appointed women to the posts of attorney general, minister of health and family, and deputy minister of education. Unlike the old charter, the new constitution allows a woman to become president. International human rights groups have urged reform of severe legal punishments that primarily affect women; in July 2009, Amnesty International noted that since 2006, nearly 200 people, the vast majority of them women, had been sentenced to flogging for extramarital sex.