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The Maldives was long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. It became a republic in 1968 A.D., three years after independence. Since 1978 A.D., 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 A.D., the president and his government pledged to embark upon democratic reforms, including a more representative political system and expanded political freedoms. Political parties were legalized in 2005 A.D.. A constituent assembly - termed the "special majlis" - has pledged to complete the drafting of a new constitution by the end of 2007 A.D. and first-ever presidential elections under a multi-candidate, multi-party system are slated for November 2008 A.D.. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago. Maldivian Dhivehi (a dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic) is spoken.

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