Maldives president faces removal plot

A move to oust the president of the Maldives is being planned, the BBC has learned.

Sources say opponents of Abdulla Yameen in the tiny island nation are looking to move against him within weeks.

His spokesman told the BBC they knew of claims of an attempt to “overthrow” the government, describing it as a “clear breach of international norms”.

The Maldives has seen frequent protests amid fears Mr. Yameen’s rule could see a return to its repressive past.

The luxury tourist destination only became a democracy in 2008 when Mohamed Nasheed became its first freely elected leader, ending three decades of autocratic rule under Mr. Yameen’s half-brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The details of what is being planned remain obscure, but when put to the government they described it as a “formal attempt at ‘legally’ overthrowing the government”.

“As in every democracy it is the people, via the ballot, who will decide who will next take office,” a spokesman for the government said.

Mr. Yameen came to power in 2013. Under his rule, hundreds of political activists have faced charges and several senior figures have been given long jail sentences including Mr. Nasheed, who now lives in self-imposed exile in the UK.

But despite heavy restrictions, rallies regularly take place against his rule in the cramped streets of the capital, Male, away from the white sand beaches of tourist resorts.

Last Friday, hundreds of opposition activists gathered near the island’s artificial beach, loudspeakers blaring out opposition songs. An image of the president gazed down from a billboard close by.

There were some scuffles with police forces, but heavy tropical rains sent most people to shelter. On the other side of the congested island, a weekly protest prayer was being held at a prominent mosque.

Many of the protesters agitated during Mr. Gayoom’s time in office, pushing for a democratic transition, and are worried about losing their recently gained freedoms.  -BBC

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