x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A graceful exit

The ouster of Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed may eventual prove unjust, but the former president's refusal to add to his nation's pain must be commended.

On Tuesday, somewhere in the Indian Ocean, a democratically elected leader left office so as to avoid "the use of force which would harm many citizens". If only other regional leaders had been as reluctant to cling to power as Mohamed Nasheed, until Tuesday, the president of the Maldives.

Before the Arab uprisings, Mr Nasheed's bloodless departure might have garnered little notice. Today, however, it's the exception.

When the history of his nation is written Mr Nasheed may well be described as the victim of a coup or a police takeover, as he and his supporters contend. What he will never be known as is a despot, a leader so in love with his office that he would fire on his own people to protect it.

The Maldives is synonymous with beautiful beaches, serenity, tourism and a rich marine life. It's biggest threats have been environmental degradation caused by climate change. Yet people have been protesting for weeks in the capital, Male, after Mr Nasheed ordered the military to arrest a judge accused of acting on behalf of the former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. It was a widely condemned move that proved Mr Nasheed's undoing.

No doubt the former president will ponder the outrage that his judicial interference sparked. What he should never question, however, is how he chose to deal with it.