Instead of his predecessor's method of removing any dissenters from political office, Gayoom's leadership style has been to tolerate a certain level of dissent from within the powerful elite. He was responsible for a 1979 amendment to the Constitution that grants members of the assembly parliamentary immunity for any stand they take. In order to unify the country, he has held public meetings, led mass prayers, held numerous press conferences, and traveled around the country, especially to the poorer atolls. He has maintained his untarnished image as an experienced administrator, diplomat, and academic. He has been in office longer than any other elected head of state in Asia.
Despite his apparent popularity, however, Gayoom has faced three separate coup attempts: in 1980, 1983, and 1988. It has been alleged that former President Nasir has played a part in all three attempts; after the 1980 attempt a commission was formed which revealed that Nasir embezzled property from the government and unfairly taxed fishermen. Nasir had meanwhile moved to Singapore and never faced charges, so his property and resort investment holdings were nationalized. Gayoom relied on a contingent of troops sent by India to put down the 1988 attempted coup, which was carried out by Sri Lankan members of the insurgent organization Tamil Eelam, who had been promised a tourist resort in the Maldives and use of the capital Malé for gun-running. Since the Maldives has no army, Gayoom is considering turning the national security service into a fighting force and installing radar equipment to guard the coastline in order to prevent the likelihood of another coup.