The small island nation officially known as the Republic of Maldives, is one of the least populated countries in the world with a mere 306,000 inhabitants. Of those 306,000 inhabitants, approximately 65,000 of those people reside on Male Island, which is the capital and largest island of the country. Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka and Indonesia, though it wasn’t devastated to the same extent that those two countries were as a result of the tsunami that occurred a few short years ago. With the national population being 306,000 people, the Republic of Maldives is ranked as the 172nd most populated country in the world. Additionally, the nation is small in terms of geographic area as well, as Maldives occupies only 298 square kilometers of land, despite having over 2,000 smaller islands being taken into consideration for the outlying territories. However, out of those 2,000 islands, only 200 of them are known to be inhabited.
The Republic of Maldives was established in 1967, following a brief stint as a sultanate in which independence was achieved in 1965. From 1987 until 1965, Maldives had the status of protectorate under the British Empire. From as early as the 12th century, the religion of Islam has been dominant among the island natives, and currently is the most influential religion within the country. Infact, more than 95 percent of the nation’s population are of the Sunni Muslim sect and most have a ethnic blend composed of African, Arab, and Sinhalese origins. The official language of the country is a Sinhalese dialect known as Divehi, in which all island natives speak. However, because of the nation’s flourishing tourism industry, English is spoken by a majority, if not all of the inhabitants. In addition to the tourism industry, the economy is largely centered around the fishing and shipping industries, though it is also known for exporting coconuts and coconut related products. The Maldives economy continues to experience growth as the island nation becomes an increasingly popular tourist destination on the global spectrum. As of 2006, the Republic of Maldives has the 80th highest GDP per-capita in the world, at $8,229 per year. This statistic places Maldives above many of its mainland Asian neighbors.
The Republic of Maldives developed a written constitution in 1998, and has been governed by it since its inception. Maldives has experienced relative political stability, and the government includes a president who’s elected by the legislature to serve five-year terms. The legislative assembly, known as the Majilis, is composed of fifty legislators in which eight are appointed by the president and the other forty-two are elected by the popular vote of the people. All legislators, whether being elected by the people or appointed by the president, are to serve five-year terms in their respective legislative offices. The presence of democratic ideals in a nation that is largely comprised of Muslims with traditional political beliefes, is unexpected and is encouraging for other nations in similar situations. The current President of Maldives, who was elected in 1978, is President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and he was last elected in October of 2003, with the next election taking place in 2008.