Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The Republic of Maldives is a constitutional democracy with a strong executive branch headed by President Mohamed Abdul Nasheed. In August 2008 then-president Gayoom ratified a new constitution that paved the way for the country's first-ever multiparty elections in November 2008. The constitution also established separation of powers and a bill of rights. In preparation for a presidential election, Gayoom created an independent elections commission and a Supreme Court. International election observers reported that the presidential election was relatively free and fair with minor voting irregularities. The handover of power to opposition leader and president-elect Nasheed went smoothly; however, parliamentary elections due by February 15 according to the constitutional deadline have been delayed. The new administration appears to be committed to protecting freedoms of the press, assembly, and association and has removed most limitations placed on these rights by its predecessor. In 2008 observance of human rights generally improved; however, citizens were not free to practice religions other than Islam. Unequal treatment of women existed, and there were restrictions on workers' rights. There were isolated reports of the security forces abusing detainees.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

U.S. goals for advancing freedom and democracy in the country focus on encouraging continued democratic progress through the holding of free and fair parliamentary elections in 2009 and strengthening newly created government bodies such as the Elections Commission, the Civil Service Commission, and the Supreme Court. The United States seeks to promote awareness of and respect for human rights, including religious freedom and labor rights, and democratic institutions through bilateral discussions, public statements, exchange programs, and training for the security forces.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States seeks to advance democracy in the country through a variety of diplomatic efforts aiming to encourage the government to advance democratic reform. For example, in a meeting with the press in May 2008, the U.S. Government publicly urged the government to draw up a new constitution and to prepare for presidential elections. Before the parliamentary elections, the U.S. Government met with senior government officials and urged them to grant the opposition equal access to state media. In meetings in Male and from Colombo, the ambassador urged President Nasheed and his senior political advisors to work across party lines with his coalition partners to govern in an inclusive manner.

The United States promotes a robust civil society by speaking frequently with civil society organizations and calling for respect for freedom of assembly. The U.S. Government supports passage of a freedom of assembly law and a press freedom regulation instituting greater protections for journalists. The United States supports the full enactment of the recent labor law to enforce workers' rights. The United States engages the government on the need to eliminate continued barriers to women's political and economic equality. The U.S. Government recently sent a Fulbright scholar to the country to work on developing training programs for journalists.

Through exchange programs, speakers, and educational opportunities, the United States promotes democratic values and seeks to mitigate extremist influences in the country. The U.S. embassy hosted a speaker program in which American professors visited the country to talk to key audiences about democratic elections and to participate in local radio interviews. The U.S. embassy is planning a number of other speaker visits and digital video conferences which emphasize civic participation and democratic values. The embassy awarded small grants to NGOs to support projects that promote expression and counter extremism. U.S. embassy officials seek promising young leaders of civil society, journalists, and politicians who may benefit from a closer look at U.S. democracy to travel to the United States under the International Visitor Leadership Program; in 2008 a member of the Maldivian Democratic Party examined U.S. citizen participation in the political process, and a local newspaper editor studied the American political system.

With U.S. funding, military officers participate in training programs, professional military education courses, and senior service schools. A key component of all military-to-military programs is training focused on increasing respect for human rights. The U.S. military conducts a yearly marine exercise with Maldives National Defense Force that promotes further professionalism and human rights awareness.