At its root, the crisis stems from allegations of corruption. After the Maldives become a republic in 1968, the government was led for 30 years by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who many accused of authoritarian rule. President Nasheed, who stepped down this week, beat Gayoom in the country's 2008 election, which finally introduced multi-party democracy in the Maldives. But Mr. Nasheed's attempts to bring corruption and human rights charges against Gayoom's family and allies have been blocked by the courts – which Nasheed accuses of being in Gayoom's pocket.
After the military arrested Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed at Nasheed's order, Gayoom's supporters took to the street to call for Mr. Mohamed's release. Opposition groups also attacked Nasheed's religious credentials, accusing him of trying to undermine Islam. Protesters were soon joined by members of the Maldives police force, a traditional Gayoom ally.
The crisis came to a head on Tuesday, with the military poised to confront the dissident police on the streets of Male, the Maldivian capital, in what many expected to be a bloody crackdown. But the threat of violence between the military and police was abated when Nasheed announced his resignation.