Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Maldives President Resigns After Coup

Maldives' President Mohamed Nasheed resigned Tuesday after what government officials described as a coup by some police officers and opposition figures linked to a former president.

"I don't want to hurt any Maldivian. I feel my staying on in power will only increase the problems, and it will hurt our citizens," Mr. Nasheed said in a televised address. "So the best option available to me is to step down."

On Tuesday morning, some 300 to 400 opposition demonstrators, including renegade police officers, took to the streets in Male, the capital of the Indian Ocean state, to call for the resignation of Mr. Nasheed, who came to power in 2008 after the country's first-ever democratic elections, the official said.

Some of those demonstrators later broke into the offices of the state television, which they continue to hold as of Tuesday afternoon, the person said. The rebels used control of the TV station to broadcast messages calling for a broader rebellion against Mr. Nasheed's government.

At first presidential aides attempted to play down the threats to Mr. Nasheed's administration and said he would stay on in power. But after some defections in the army as well as the police, Mr. Nasheed realized he had no option but to resign, said a senior official in the president's office.

"The other choice is a brutal crackdown," the official said. "We've lost control of the police…and there have been some army defections."

The official said loyal army units had fired tear-gas canisters at protesters earlier in the day but denied the use of rubber bullets.

Mr. Nasheed came to power in 2008, ending 30 years of government under former president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Before coming to power, Mr Nasheed was a pro-democracy activist. He spent time in jail as a political prisoner under Mr. Gayoom's administration after claiming irregularities in elections.

The protests Tuesday were led by people close to Mr. Gayoom, said the official in the president's office. Local reports said Mr. Gayoom was traveling in Malaysia. Immediate attempts to contact him were not successful.

The spark of the current troubles appears to be a recent attempt by Mr. Nasheed's administration to remove a senior judge who the government believes is an ally of Mr. Gayoom.

The government, since coming to power in 2008, has investigated Mr. Gayoom on allegations of corruption while he was in office but has not charged him. Mr. Gayoom denies wrongdoing.

Three weeks ago, Mr. Nasheed ordered the army to arrest the judge, Abdulla Mohamed. Mr. Mohamed, a senior criminal court judge, had refused to step down following a ruling of gross misconduct by a constitutional body that oversees the judiciary.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article

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