Police in the Maldives have arrested the country’s vice president, Ahmed Adeeb, in connection with a September 28 bomb attack on board a boat carrying the country’s president, Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Ismail Ali, a spokesperson for the police, said that the vice president had been arrested over the weekend when he returned from an official visit to China. The development comes at a time when the Maldives is beset with considerable political tension.
The current government has cracked down against the opposition, imprisoning the country’s former and first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, after a trial in front of a stacked court. In addition to the erosion of the health of the Maldives’ nascent democracy, Gayoom’s leadership is under challenge. If Adeeb is found to have planned the September 28 attack — an assassination attempt by any measure — it is likely that additional instability could follow.
According to Maldivian authorities, the bomb in the September 28 blast was placed underneath the seat where Gayoom normally would sit. He survived the attack because he happened to not have been in that seat on the day of the blast.
Prior to serving as the country’s vice president, Adeeb was the minister of tourism, arts, and culture. In addition to being the vice president of the country, Adeeb is the vice president of the dominant Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The PPM was formed and is led to this day by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the country’s autocratic president from 1978 to 2008. (The end of Gayoom’s tenure led to free elections in the country, resulting in the president of Mohamed Nasheed.)
According to preliminary reports, Adeeb has denied any involvement in the attack. Indeed, Adeeb’s rise to the vice presidency was largely facilitated by Gayoom. The Associated Press describes Adeeb as a “staunch Gayoom loyalist.”
Current president Yameen Abdul Gayoom is Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half brother. Now that Adeeb is a suspect in the September 28 attempt on Gayoom’s life, the PPM could be beset with an internal power struggle. The PPM’s dominance in the country’s majlis (parliament) has eroded since Gayoom’s ascent in 2013, with the departure of erstwhile coalition partners including the Jumhoory Party (JP) and Adhaalath Party.
The September 28 attack on Gayoom’s boat has already affected the composure of the ruling PPM. In mid-October, just two weeks after the blast, PPM legislators pledged loyalty to the president to avoid any perception of internal factionalism. “I want to give my assurance that a clear majority of PPM is with the president. The president knows that we, the PPM’s parliamentary group, is ready to help him in achieving whatever he wants to,” Ahmed Nihan Hussein Manik, a PPM legislator, told state television.
We’ll find out more about Adeeb’s possible involvement in the still unclear circumstances surrounding the September 28 attack, but the mere fact that the vice president has been arrested in connection with an attempt on the president’s life will raise tensions in the Maldives.