Male: President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives resigned on Tuesday after weeks of protests erupted into a police mutiny, leaving the man widely credited with bringing democracy to the paradise islands accused of being as dictatorial as his predecessor.
Nasheed handed power over the Indian Ocean archipelago to Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, saying continuing in power would result in his having to use force against his people.
“I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power,” he said in a televised address. “I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens.”
In the morning, soldiers fired tear gas at police and demonstrators who besieged the Maldives National Defence Force headquarters in Republic Square.
Later in the day, scores of demonstrators stood outside the nearby president’s office chanting “Gayoom! Gayoom!”, refering to his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed swept to victory in 2008, pledging to bring full democracy to the luxury holiday resort nation, but drew opposition fire for his arrest of a judge he accused of being in the pocket of Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years.
Protests at the arrest set off a constitutional crisis that had Nasheed in the unaccustomed position of defending himself against accusations of acting like a dictator.
Overnight, vandals attaced the lobby of the opposition-linked VTV TV station, witnesses said, while mutinying police attacked and burnt the main rallying point of Nasheed’s Maldives Democratic Party before later taking over the state broadcaster MNBC and renaming it TV Maldives.
SCRAMBLE FOR POSITION
Gayoom’s opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives accused the military of firing rubber bullets at protesters and a party spokesman, Mohamed Hussain “Mundhu” Shareef, said “loads of people” were injured. He gave no specifics.
An official close to the president denied the government had used rubber bullets, but confirmed that about three dozen police officers defied orders overnight and smashed up the main rallying point of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.
“This follows Gayoom’s party calling for the overthrow of the Maldives’ first democratically elected government and for citizens to launch jihad against the president,” said the official who declined to be identified.
The protests, and the scramble for position ahead of next year’s presidential election, have seen parties adopting hardline Islamist rhetoric and accusing Nasheed of being anti-Islamic.
The trouble has also shown the longstanding rivalry between Gayoom and Nasheed, who was jailed for a combined six years after being arrested 27 times by Gayoom’s government while agitating for democracy.
The trouble has been largely invisible to the 900,000 or so well-heeled tourists who come every year to visit desert islands swathed in aquamarine seas, ringed by white-sand beaches.
Most tourists are whisked straight to their island hideaway by seaplane or speedboat, where they are free to drink alcohol and get luxurious spa treatments, insulated from the everyday Maldives, a fully Islamic state where alcohol is outlawed and skimpy beachwear frowned upon.
Twitter user Alexander Brown said he was in the Maldives enjoying life.
“Maldives government overthrowing (sic) and im watching a Vogue photo shoot infront of me on Four Seasons … very strange world”.