MALE - The Maldives' first democratically-elected president resigned on Tuesday, February 7, following three weeks of protests that were joined by a police mutiny, ending a political upheaval in the holiday paradise.
"It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign," President Mohamed Nasheed told a televised press conference cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
I don't want to run the country with an iron-fist. I am resigning.
His announcement came as police officers joined anti-government protests that have rocked the capital Male for the past three weeks.
Police also took over the state television station and began broadcasting an opposition channel.
Nasheed handed power over the Indian Ocean archipelago to Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, saying continuing in power would result in his having to use force against his people.
"I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power," he said.
"I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens."
Protests demanding Nasheed to step down have escalated since he ordered the arrest last month of Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on charges of misconduct and favoring opposition figures.
The arrested judge was accused of being in the pocket of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years.
The Maldives, a country of 1,192 Indian Ocean islands scattered across the equator, is famous for its upmarket holiday resorts and hotels that cater for honeymooning couples and high-end travelers.
Problems, including high youth unemployment, a widespread illegal drug use problem, an increasing rise in Islamic fundamentalism and a downturn in tourism due to the weakening global economy, have fuelled discontent against Nasheed's rule.
According to CIA factbook, the Maldives has a population of 394,999 based on a July 2011 census.
Islam is the official religion of the country with almost 100 percent of its residents practicing Muslims.
Nasheed's resignation followed weeks of protests called by Gayoom's opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives which accused the military of firing rubber bullets at protesters.
The party spokesman, Mohamed Hussain "Mundhu" Shareef, said "loads of people" were injured without giving any 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 smashed up the main rallying point of the ruling Maldivian Democratic 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," the official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Army spokesman Colonel Abdul Raheem Abdul Latheef confirmed later that troops had used tear gas and rubber bullets in clashes with protestors and police who had gathered outside the military headquarters in Male.
"The sporadic clashes began after midnight and continued until 8:00am (0300 GMT)," Latheef said.
As a political activist, Nasheed, who was an outspoken critic of Gayoom's one-party rule, was at one point an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.
The trouble has shown the longstanding rivalry between Gayoom and Nasheed, who was jailed for a combined six years after being arrested 27 times by Gayoom's government while agitating for democracy.
He formed the Maldivian Democratic Party in exile but then returned home to a hero's welcome, sweeping 54 percent of the vote in the 2008 elections whose results brought people out into the streets dancing and cheering.