* President quits after weeks of protests and police mutiny
* Nasheed's MDP party says president ousted in a "coup"
* President said to have asked India for assistance
* New president says rule of law established
(Recasts with statement by Nasheed's party, Ban Ki-moon,
By Bryson Hull
MALE, Feb 7 President Mohamed Nasheed of
the Maldives, widely credited with bringing democracy to the
Indian Ocean archipelago, resigned on Tuesday in what his party
said was a coup after weeks of opposition protests erupted into
a police mutiny.
Nasheed, the Sunni Muslim nation's first democratically
elected presfident , handed power to Vice-President
Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik. In a televised address Nasheed
said, "I believe that if the government were to remain in power
it would require the use of force which would harm many
Protests last year over the faltering economy and scrambling
ahead of this year's presidential election, have seen parties
adopting hardline Islamist rhetoric and accusing Nasheed of
Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party said in a statement
that "rogue elements" in the police force along with supporters
of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had overthrown the
government and forced Nasheed to quit.
The MDP called for help from abroad to re-establish
democracy and protect Nasheed and senior members of his
government. A presidential aide told Reuters on condition of
anonymity that Nasheed had been allowed to return to his home in
Male and was no longer under military guard.
Hassan Saeed, leader of the DQP - a party in the opposition
coalition, and an Indian diplomatic source in Colombo said
Nasheed had asked India for help and been refused.
India helped foil a coup on the islands in 1988 by sending a
battalion of soldiers to back the government.
A spokesman for India's Foreign Ministry, Syed Akbaruddin,
said the rebellion was an internal matter for the Maldives "to
be resolved by the Maldives".
Britain's Foreign Office said a team of diplomats was on its
way there and that London viewed developments "with concern" and
called on all groups "to find a peaceful way through these
difficulties, in accordance with the Constitution".
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for calm and
said in a statement that the United Nations would remain a
"close partner" of the Maldives.
Late on Tuesday, tourists and air traffic were moving
without disruption in and out of the islands' main airport.
People whizzed about on mopeds in the streets of the capital
Male, going about their usual business.
The official presidential bungalow showed no signs of
activity and a handful of Maldivians sauntered around shopping
and civic centre Republic Square, which also houses the Grand
Mosque and police headquarters, with no sign of security forces.
Nasheed swept to victory in 2008, pledging to bring full
democracy to the low-lying islands and speaking out passionately
on the dangers of climate change and rising sea levels.
But he drew opposition fire for his arrest of a judge he
said was in the pocket of Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years.
Protests at the arrest set off a constitutional crisis that
had Nasheed - jailed in all for six years and arrested 27 times
by Gayoom's government while agitating for democracy - defending
himself against accusations of acting like a dictator.
The new president told Reuters that Nasheed was in
protective police custody for his security and said calling the
day's events a coup was a "misrepresentation".
"The people have been out on the street demonstrating for
weeks now and then finally it came to a point where the crowds
(were) too overwhelming and the president tried to negotiate,
was too late and the people prevailed on him to resign.
"There was a moment when this morning there was a conflict
between the military and the police that was happening while
Nasheed was still president... The situation is now resolved.
Both the police and the armed forces fully supported my taking
He said one priority was to create a "durable environment
for tourism since it's our main industry... We can assure all
visitors to the Maldives the situation is perfectly normal".
In an address after being sworn in, the new president said
that the rule of law had been fully established.
"I will not order the police, military or any person to do
amything against the law....Everyone will have the protection of
the constitution and laws," Waheed said.
He called upon all political parties, the military and
citizens to "put aside personal hatreds" and pledged to "work to
restore peace and prosperity of the nation, to deliver a
harmonious and peaceful living to the people".
Thomas Cook Germany, part of the London-listed group
, said it was discouraging its 900 customers currently in
the Maldives from travelling to Male. Airlines reported no
cancellations of scheduled flights to the Maldives.
Germany advised against all but essential travel to Male,
while Britain's advice to tourists was to "exercise caution,
avoid demonstrations and beware of spontaneous gatherings".
Overnight, vandals attacked the lobby of the
opposition-linked VTV TV station, witnesses said, and mutinying
police attacked and burnt the main rallying point of Nasheed's
Maldives Democratic Party before taking over the state
broadcaster MNBC and renaming it TV Maldives, as it was called
On Tuesday, 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!".
"We will insist Nasheed is tried for his corruption, for his
violation of rule of law," said Saeed of the DQP. "...we will
provide full support for the new president."
Gayoom's opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives
accused the military of firing rubber bullets at protesters and
a 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, but confirmed that about three dozen police
officers defied orders overnight and attacked a ruling party
"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 who declined to be identified.
The vice-president is expected to run a national unity
government until the presidential election.
The trouble has been largely invisible to the 900,000 or so
tourists who come every year to visit desert islands swathed in
aquamarine seas, ringed by white-sand beaches.
Most tourists are whisked to their island resorts by
seaplane or speedboat, where they are free to drink alcohol and
get luxurious spa treatments, insulated from the everyday
Maldives, a fully Islamic state where alcohol is outlawed and
skimpy beachwear frowned upon.
Nasheed sought international help to stop the sea engulfing
his nation and in 2009 held a cabinet meeting underwater, with
ministers in scuba gear, to publicise the problem.
An Asian diplomat serving in Male told Reuters on condition
of anonymity: "No one remembers the underwater cabinet meeting.
They remember Judge Abdulla Mohamed," a reference to Nasheed
having the military arrest the judge accused of being in
(Additional reporting by C. Bryson Hull in Male, Ranga Sirilal
in Colombo, Frank Jack Daniel in New Delhi and Peter Maushagen
in Frankfurt; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Louise Ireland)