Hook or crook: Maldives pres purge judiciary to quell latest 'coup'
When president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom took office in 2013 his power was absolute. He had the backing of every political leader. Little to no resistance from a deflated opposition. And the wise counsel of his half brother, former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
As his five year term in office draws to a close, how the once powerful president managed to squander his absolute majority in parliament and long list of political allies remains a question for the history books - as a lesson for future generations and perhaps one for future leaders.
But even his fiercest critic would grudgingly admit that president Yameen cursed with the rather unwanted ability to attract trouble, is an expert at quelling a crisis with ruthless efficiency. After the ugly and public falling out with his half brother threatened his re-election hopes, Yameen did not hesitate to unceremoniously depose his brother from the very party he founded.
When his second vice president turned rouge and orchestrated the now failed assassination attempt, president Yameen responded with his usual decisiveness. He declared a state of emergency as the security forces wiped out remnants of his VP's influence.
Last year, the embattled president was dogged by a revolt from government lawmakers as the united opposition wrested the parliament majority and launched a move to unseat the parliament speaker which was to be a stepping stone for his impeachment. But again president Yameen refused to roll over in defeat. His ruling party got the Supreme Court to issue a controversial ruling which defied every rule and every law to have the rebel lawmakers disqualified for 'floor crossing.'
The latest and arguably the biggest of the now long list of threats to the "thick skinned" president came when the country's top court ordered the immediate release of all jailed political leaders. The political rivals and enemies he had so ruthlessly 'eliminated' to pave the way for his reelection were at the brink of being free. For a brief moment it appeared that Yameen was finally beaten as he desperately tried to get on top of the situation. When his last ditch attempt to have the order revoked had failed, Yameen did what he does best. First he reinforced his last remaining authority over the police and the military before declaring a state of emergency. The security forces mobilized quickly to arrest the 'rouge' judges in the top court and Yameen's half-brother.
He later went on live television to accuse the chief justice and a senior top court of judge of having been bribed to issue the order in a bid to have him overthrown. President Yameen was, as he always is, clear, precise and direct as he quoted the constitution, laws, jurisdiction with unwavering belief that a layman would not think twice to question. Though the country is still in emergency state, Yameen appears to have averted another crisis. He has now literally claimed 'victory' thanking the police and the military for quelling yet another 'coup'.
He admitted that he is "exhausted" having only slept only "six hours" for the last few days. But for any outsider the fact that he got any sleep through a crisis of such magnitude is further testament to his resolve to remain calm in the face of oblivion.
With the presidential elections just around the corner, what president Yameen's next move will be is anybody's guess. But one thing is certain. Win or lose, legal or illegal, president Yameen definitely has a career to fall back on - a battle hardened crisis management expert for any and every autocratic emergency.