Maldives is made up of nearly 1,200 islands spread over the Indian Ocean. Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, the Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until 1965. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another three years until 1968 when it became a republic. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom dominated the country’s political scene for 30 years, elected to six successive terms by single-party referendums. In October 2008, Maldives held the first multiparty presidential elections, and Mohamed Nasheed was elected the country’s new president. Nasheed is currently facing the challenge of strengthening democracy. Maldives is known for having beautiful, pristine, sandy beaches on small coral islands, and its economy revolves around tourism, with scores of islands having been developed for the top end of the tourist market.
Note: The Republic of Maldives is one of the countries most affected by climate change. Composed of 1,200 tiny coral islands in the Indian Ocean no higher than six feet (1.8 meters) above sea level, Maldives is particularly vulnerable to the rise of sea level brought on by global warming. In March 2009, President Mohamed Nasheed announced that Maldives would become the world's first carbon neutral country within a decade. President Mohamed Nasheed said that his country would make a wholesale transition to renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power within the ten year time frame. These moves have been regarded as crucial to small island states in the Indian Ocean, Pacific and Caribbean, given the existential threat posed by global warming and the concomitant rise in sea level.