Maldives President Resigns Following Police Mutiny, Protests

Posted February 7th, 2012 at 12:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The Maldives' first democratically elected president has resigned and been replaced by his vice president, following weeks of opposition protests over the controversial arrest of a senior judge.

Mohamed Nasheed told the country in a televised speech Tuesday that he was stepping down as president because he had no desire to use force to maintain his rule. His second-in-command, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, was sworn in as the new Maldivian president Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Nasheed's announcement came after mutinous police took over the state television headquarters in the capital, Male, and broadcast calls for him to step down. Earlier, a group of police had joined an opposition protest and attacked a nearby demonstration led by members of the ruling party, prompting soldiers to use tear gas.

The government had faced three weeks of mounting protests after Mr. Nasheed ordered the arrest of a senior judge on charges of misconduct and favoring opposition figures.

Mr. Hassan, the Supreme Court and the United Nations Human Rights Commission had all called for the judge to be released.

In his first televised address as the Maldives' president, Mr. Hassan promised to protect his predecessor from retribution and called for the protests to stop.

Mr. Nasheed became president in 2008, replacing Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who held office for 30 years under a one-party system.

The Republic of Maldives is a Muslim-majority nation made up of about 1,200 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. It is famous for its beach resorts and hotels that cater to newly married couples and high-end travellers. There was no immediate indication that any of the political unrest affected the country's tourism industry.

The spokesperson for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that Mr. Ban had learned of Mr. Nasheed's resignation and expressed “strong hope” the handover of power would lead to the peaceful resolution of the country's political crisis.

The U.N. secretary general called on all Maldivians to refrain from violence and “engage constructively” in addressing the country's problems.