The Maldives
: From Dictatorship to Constitutional Democracy and the Quest for Consolidation

  • Ahmed Nazeer

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Democratic transitions and authoritarian reversals are the subjects of numerous studies in constitutional law and political science. Various jurisdictions, some that have had successful democratic transitions leading to consolidation, and others with failed transitions, have been closely scrutinised by academics. Each tells a different story and adds novel contributions to the field. Despite the burgeoning literature in this field, the Maldivian democratic transition from a dictatorship and the challenges it faces in democratic consolidation have not been studied before from a constitutional perspective.
This thesis fills this gulf in the literature by studying the Maldivian transition to democracy in 2008 and its struggle to consolidate democracy. This research analyses the Maldives 2008 Constitution in its broader historical, social, legal, and political context focusing on three facets of the Maldives Constitution that are crucial for democracy: separation of powers, human rights, and civil-military relations. These aspects are divided into three substantive chapters of this thesis, and each chapter is divided into subsections. The first part of each chapter analyses the existing literature on the topic of the chapter. After that, it examines the constitutional text governing the topic. Next, the chapters analyses the constitutional text of previous Constitutions of the Maldives to determine how the constitutional history has shaped the 2008 Constitution. After that, the chapters examine the implementation of the Constitution in practice and identify the social, legal, political, and cultural forces that hold the constitutional text captive. Finally, the chapters offer recommendations based on the findings of the previous
parts. The three substantive chapters of this thesis generally follow this structure with one exception, which is chapter 4, in which there is an additional section for the discussion of the principle of proportionality.
This thesis concludes that the Maldives transitioned to an electoral democracy in 2008 and it faces various challenges in consolidating democracy. Its democracy remains vulnerable to backsliding because there are powerful social, legal, cultural, and political forces that prevent the implementation of the Constitution and hinders democratic consolidation in the Maldives. The findings of this thesis have wider application to new democracies around the world. This thesis demonstrates that transplanting constitutional text does not guarantee democratic governance or facilitate democratic consolidation. Popular undemocratic leaders and cultural and social forces can hold the constitutional text captive in these countries. However, there are constitutional safeguards that can be placed to deter the negative impact of these forces. These safeguards can prevent political capture of the judiciary and independent institutions, facilitate
a check and balance system, and establish democratic control of the military.
Date of Award10 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorShubhankar Dam (Supervisor) & Marnie Myrna Lovejoy (Supervisor)

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