The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was founded in exile in Colombo, Sri Lanka in November 2003. The administration at the time of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom forbade the operating of political parties in the Maldives, but the MDP began organising across the country, collecting signatures from 42 founding members, and building the structures of the party across the country. The MDP galvanised the pro democracy movement in the Maldives by building local strength and garnering international support to place pressure on the authoritarian state to implement a program of democratic reforms.
In January 2005, for the first time, individuals contested the Parliamentary elections while disclosing their public affiliation with the MDP. In June 2005 legislation was passed allowing for registration of political parties in the Maldives. On June 23 2005, after party members carried out a sit in at the Home Ministry, the MDP was officially registered as the Maldives’ first political party. The party held its first official congress in December 2005, electing local party structures, and formulating a policy framework. The MDP and its members, including most of its leadership continued to face obstruction from security forces and the Government, with many activists held in arbitrary detention for long periods of time. International mediation through mechanisms such as the Westminster talks in 2006 led to agreements between the Government and the MDP to allow for further progress in the implementation of the reform process.
In August 2008, under immense domestic and international pressure, President Gayoom ratified the newly reformed constitution, paving the way for the Maldives’ first democratic multiparty elections in October 2008. As no candidate acquired over 50% of the vote, a run off was held, where a coalition of opposition parties backed the MDP’s candidate, Mohamed Nasheed against the incumbent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Mohamed Nasheed won 54% of the vote in the run off, becoming the first democratically elected President of the Maldives.
The MDP led Government was elected on a platform which included pledges on affordable housing, lower costs of living, and the established of a national transport system. Many of these pledges were initiated and achieved before the first democratically elected Government was thrown out of power following a military and police led coup in February 2008. The MDP has since fought for the preservation of hard fought democratic gains, and free and fair elections, amidst a reversal of fundamental rights by the Governments that followed the coup.
Today, MDP is the Maldives’ largest political party with 48,990 members.