Background: The Maldives was long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. It became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. Since 1978, President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM - currently in his sixth term in office - has dominated the islands' political scene. Following riots in the capital Male in August 2004, the president and his government have pledged to embark upon democratic reforms, including a more representative political system and expanded political freedoms. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.
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