The Maldives isn’t generally well known for political instability or even protests though there have been much of the latter lately and some of the former periodically. What it is known for are the luxury resorts dotting the dozens of peaceful and largely uninhabited islands for foreign vacationers to flock to and the pristine environment the group of over 1,200 islands is surrounded by.
Like other countries such as Bangladesh this year, the Maldives went through a confusing coup d’etat episode of its own when the Islamic country of roughly 300,000 citizens saw to the resignation of its first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed.
It all started in late December 2011 when an opposing coalition of political parties organized protests against President Nasheed.
Protests grew larger after the sudden arrest of Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed which got human rights organizations and the United Nations involved. Many Maldivians saw the arrest of their Chief Justice as transgressing their country’s constitution on part of President Nasheed.
Soon, clashes between officers and protesters confusedly turned into a fight between protesters supported by policemen and the opposing military soldiers.
After the numerous incidents of violence and being held in military custody, President Nasheed resigned saying that he did not “want to see the people suffer” and that he would resign if that was all it took to end the madness.
However, immediately after his resignation and in the presence of journalists, Mr. Nasheed admitted that he was forced to resign and be subsequently overthrown in a coup d’etat carried out by his autocratic predecessor’s supporters in coordination with the military and that his vice president was also involved in the conspiracy.
Nasheed and his aides also stated that the coup supporters threatened to kill him with a gunshot to the head if he did not resign.
Multiple government officials who asked not to have their identities revealed also admitted that they were threatened by military and police officials immediately after the coup d’etat.
Former Vice President and current President Waheed Hassan who took over as Maldives’ president insisted he had nothing to do with Nasheed’s resignation nor the alleged coup d’etat.
The ‘autocratic predecessor’ refers to previous Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who had ruled the islands for 30 years with his fellow businessmen politicians.
Though deemed as such, many still consider Gayoom to have been an effective politician unlike Nasheed whose administration has been plagued by alleged corruption, a lack of promised progress and shadowy deals between his close advisors.
In the past, Mr. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was banned by Gayoom’s regime and was forced to work in exile in Sri Lanka.
Later, Nasheed came to prominence as the “Nelson Mandela” of the Maldives after he was released from prison when Gayoom finally gave into both domestic and international pressure to introduce reforms including the rewriting of the constitution and the introduction of democratic elections.
However, Nasheed faced much opposition to his presidency despite his domestic and outside popularity as the president who was concerned about the islands’ fates in the face of global warming which, with public doubt about his leadership, has ultimately led to the current predicament.
The MDP and the opposing coalition are currently in the initial stages of discussion regarding presidential elections. The elections were already scheduled to take place in 2013 during Nasheed’s presidency, however the MDP and thousands of other Maldivians want a 2012 election.
So far, MDP’s rivals seem to have no interest in discussing either a 2012 nor 2013 election.
(Cover Photo: Sinan Hussain/AP)