MALE, Maldives (AP) — Supporters of the former Maldives president rioted through the streets of the capital and seized some remote police stations Wednesday to demand his reinstatement, as the country’s new leader appealed for an end to the political turmoil roiling this Indian Ocean island nation.
Allies said former leader Mohamed Nasheed and other top party officials were beaten by police in the street chaos. The nation’s first democratically elected president, Mr. Nasheed resigned Tuesday after police joined months of street protests against his rule and soldiers defected.
Late Wednesday evening, Nasheed supporters took control of some small police stations, but larger ones stayed under official control, police spokesman Amhed Shyam said. Residents told local reporters that as many as 10 police stations on small islands may have been seized. The Maldives is made up of nearly 1,200 scattered islands, some of which have just a few hundred residents.
Mr. Nasheed said Wednesday he was forced to resign at gunpoint, and he promised to fight to return to office.
“We will come to power again,” Mr. Nasheed said. “We will never step back. I will not accept this coup and will bring justice to the Maldivians.”
Mr. Nasheed’s party insisted his ouster was engineered by rogue elements of the police and supporters of the country’s former autocratic leader, whom Mr. Nasheed defeated in the Maldives‘ first multiparty elections in 2008. Others blamed Islamic extremists in the Muslim country, where some have demanded more-conservative government policies.
New President Mohammed Waheed Hassan denied claims there was a coup or a plot to oust Mr. Nasheed. The former vice president, he said he had not prepared to take over the country and called for a unity coalition to be formed to help it recover.
“Together, I am confident, we’ll be able to build a stable and democratic country,” he said, adding that his government intended to respect the rule of law.
Later in the day, he appeared to be consolidating his power by appointing a new military chief and police commissioner. He later swore in defense and home ministers, the first members of his new Cabinet.
Mr. Nasheed insisted he was pushed from power by the armed forces.
“I was forced to resign with guns all around me. They told me, if I don’t resign, they won’t hesitate to use arms,” he said.
The military denied that it forced Mr. Nasheed to resign at gunpoint.
“There is no officer in the military that would point a gun towards the president,” Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Didi said.
“The military did not call for his resignation; he resigned voluntarily,” Gen. Didi said, adding that the military is trying to bring peace to troubled areas quickly.
Speaking to about 2,000 wildly cheering members of his Maldivian Democratic Party in the capital, Male, Mr. Nasheed called for Mr. Hassan’s immediate resignation and demanded the nation’s top judge investigate those he said were responsible for his ouster.