MALE // President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, widely credited with bringing democracy to the hideaway resort islands, resigned yesterday after weeks of opposition protests erupted into a police mutiny.
Mr Nasheed handed power over to the vice president, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, explaining that continuing in office would result in his having to use force against the 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.
"I resign because I believe that if the government continues to stay in power, it is very likely that we may face foreign influences."
It was not immediately clear to what influences he was referring. India helped foil a coup on the islands in 1988 by sending a battalion of soldiers to back the government.
Nasheed swept to victory in 2008, but he drew opposition fire for his arrest of a judge he accused of being in the pocket of his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years. Protests at the arrest set off a constitutional crisis that had Mr Nasheed defending himself against accusations of acting like a dictator.
Late on Monday, vandals attacked the lobby of the opposition-linked VTV TV station, witnesses said, while mutinying police attacked and burnt the main rallying point of Mr Nasheed's Maldives Democratic Party before later taking over the state broadcaster MNBC and renaming it TV Maldives.
Yesterday, 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!".
Mr Gayoom's opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives accused the military of firing rubber bullets at protesters and a the 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.
"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.
The protests, and the scramble for position ahead of next year's presidential election, have seen parties adopting hardline Islamist rhetoric and accusing Mr Nasheed of being anti-Islamic.
The vice president is expected to run a national unity government until next year's presidential election.
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.
The Twitter user Alexander Brown said he was in the Maldives enjoying life.
"Maldives government overthrowing (sic) and im watching a Vogue photo shoot in front of me on Four Seasons ... very strange world."