Maldives President Forced to Resign
February 8, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On February 7, Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed announced his resignation from office. The Guardian reported that although the transfer of power to Vice President Waheed Hassan seemed peaceful, Nasheed is now saying that he was forced to resign at gunpoint. The leadership change came after weeks of demonstrations by the police, opposition members, and supporters of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who Nasheed beat in 2008. Since that election, the country has been a multi-party democracy, but has been plagued by constant arguments within the government.
The BBC reported that the tension in the Maldives began in January, when the army arrested a senior judge on Nasheed’s orders. The judge previously ordered the release of a government critic, who he believed to have been illegally detained. The judge’s arrest, which appeared to be politically motivated, sparked street protests that culminated on February 7. Hundreds of Nasheed supporters gathered in Republic Square to defend the president after throwing petrol bombs at police and attacking a private television station that had criticized the ruling government. According to the Maldivian Democratic party (MDP), riot police fired teargas at the crowd and used their batons to beat supporters. Nasheed and senior party officials of the MDP were also victims of police brutality.
The new president, Mohammad Waheed Hassan is already denying accusations that he planned what now looks like a coup. The Guardian reported that during a press conference on February 8, Hassan said, “Together, I am confident, we’ll be able to build a stable and democratic country.” He claimed that Nasheed is not under any restriction and is free to leave country. Meanwhile, Nasheed’s brother told the BCC that the security forces are holding Nasheed against his will at the presidential palace. The security forces claim to be concerned for Nasheed’s safety. According to the Associated Press, even as Hassan was holding the press conference, several hundred of Nasheed supporters rioted in the streets promising to come to power again.
Some fear that Islamist extremists are now gaining influence in the country. According to the Guardian, President Hassan responded during the press conference saying, “They are part of society; you can’t ignore them… But there is a wide range of people with different views, philosophies and ideas about politics. I am planning to create a plural multi-party government.” The Maldives already enforces some Islamic laws, such as the ban on consuming alcohol (outside of tourist resorts). Police are currently investigating the some 100 bottles of alcohol found inside the presidential palace when Nasheed resigned. If Nasheed is found guilty of possession of alcohol, he could be fined, placed under house arrest or exiled to a remote island.
For previous news on the Maldives, please see:
Maldives Elected to Human Rights Council
BBC - Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed resigns amid unrest
The Guardian - New Maldives president denies plot to oust Mohamed Nasheed
The Associated Press - Maldives leader calls for unity gov't amid rioting
BBC - Maldives ex-president Mohamed Nasheed was 'forced out'