Maldives suspends opposition MPs to hand president majority rule
The Maldives’ top court has suspended 12 pro-opposition legislators before a crucial parliamentary vote Monday, emboldening President Abdulla Yameen as he clings to power in the troubled islands.
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The Supreme Court decision late on Sunday reverses its original order to reinstate the MPs, who had defected from the ruling party. It comes as parliament prepares to ratify a state of emergency declared by Yameen that plunged the Maldives into crisis.
The court had ruled on February 1 that the 12 defectors be reinstalled as legislators, reducing the president’s party to minority rule in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
This latest U-turn by the Supreme Court restores Yameen’s majority in the 85-member legislature.
The three-judge bench said it was suspending the February 1 order to reinstate the politicians following an appeal by the attorney general.
It is the second U-turn by the Supreme Court since Yameen ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice and another supreme court judge just two weeks ago as he declared a state of emergency.
Earlier this month the remaining judges of the court reversed their earlier order to release political prisoners, including Yameen’s main rival Mohamed Nasheed.
That ruling threw the popular holiday islands into turmoil as Yameen cracked down on his opponents. His estranged half-brother, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was among those arrested on a charge of bribing Supreme Court justices to topple the government through a constitutional coup.
Yameen has faced international censure over his refusal to abide by the top court’s rulings and his declaration of a state of emergency, described by the UN human rights chief as "an all-out assault on democracy".
The unrest has dented the Maldives’ image as a popular holiday destination. The nation’s top earner is tourism, with honeymooners drawn by its pristine islands and crystal-clear blue waters.