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State structure

The initial sultanate was abolished by constitution in 1968 and from that time onwards the Maldives is a presidential Islamic republic. The Maldivian president is a very powerful man with several important positions. He is head of the government, religious leader, head of the judiciary and commander-in-chief of the army. Furthermore, he appoints all judges and ministers and also has the power to dismiss them.

The legislative body is the Maldivian parliament, the Citizen's Majlis. The Citizen's Majlis has 48 members. All 19 administrative atolls and the capital Male elect two members of the council. In addition, the president appoints eight more members. This Citizen's Council meets only three times a year. From the middle of the Citizen's Majlis, most ministers are recruited. The members of the Citizen's Majlis are elected every five years in a personal capacity in general elections. Thus, political parties do not exist in the Maldives. Every five years, the Citizen's Majlis nominates one presidential candidate in a secret ballot who is then elected by a general referendum by voting Maldivians aged 21 and older. In total, President Maumoon Abdel Gayoom has managed to win five of these referendums so far with overwhelming majorities of the votes.

The 26 natural atolls are divided into 19 administrative districts headed by an atoll chief, the atolhu verin, in the function of a kind of governor. He visits each inhabited island of his atoll once a month. Per atoll, there is also an Islamic judge, a gazi, present for the administration of justice based on Islam, and other religious matters. Gazis are appointed by the president. Each inhabited island further has an island chief, a bodukhateeb, who heads the island government. They are elected by the population. For the current political situation, see history chapter.


The Maldives' education system is based on the British system. The mandatory school uniform is also a British tradition. The illiteracy rate is 5% which is remarkably low for a developing country like the Maldives. Primary education is compulsory and every inhabited island has at least one elementary school. Some schools on the smaller islands are so small that they only teach up to grade five. For grades six and seven, children must then attend schools on the larger islands. Students receive 2 to 4 hours of instruction per day. English as a second language is taught from grade one. In private schools, children are taught language and math from the age of three. Only in the capital Male and in Hithadhoo is full secondary education provided in public or private schools.

After secondary education, there is little available in the Maldives. There are some vocational schools and an Institute of Islamic Studies. For many college or university education, Maldivian students have to go to e.g. India, England, Singapore or the Middle East. Children up to about fifteen also attend the "maktab," a traditional Islamic school where reading and quoting the Koran is taught.


Derksen, G. / Maldiven

Ellis, R. / Maldives

Lyon, J. / Maldives
Lonely Planet

Vliet, E. van / Reishandboek Malediven

Voigtmann, H. / Malediven

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated March 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info