Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, president of the Maldives, is facing the strongest challenge to his 30-year rule in the country's first democratic presidental elections.
|Maldivians are voting in the country's first presidential election since Gayoom came to power [AFP]
Gayoom was elected president on July 28, 1978, winning 90 per cent of the vote as the sole candidate in a presidential referendum, and he has remained in power ever since.
The following are some of the key events in the run-up to the country's first multi-party presidential elections:
September 20-21: Public outrage over prison abuse boils over into unprecedented riots. Several people are arrested in the capital, Male.
October 19: Gayoom re-elected for sixth term as president.
August 13: State of emergency declared after pro-democracy protests turn violent.
September 16: European parliament unanimously votes to impose sanctions against Maldives in wake of crackdown on protests.
December: Sanctions taken off agenda after Gayoom drops charges against protesters.
December 26: Asian tsunami kills 82 Maldivians, and causes damage estimated at up to $510m or up to 80 per cent of GDP.
January 26: Election mired in confusion after both government and opposition claim victory.
June 2: Government lifts ban on forming political parties, ending centuries of autocratic rule.
March 28: Officials announce new reform road map, delaying first multi-party elections to 2008.
January 8: Gayoom survives assassination attempt.
August 7: Gayoom ratifies new constitution paving way for multi-party presidential elections by October 10.
August 31: Ruling Dhivehi Raiyyithunge party left with two-seat majority in 50-member parliament following a series of cabinet resignations.