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US calls for 'free and fair' vote after soldiers evict MPs from Maldives parliament

Plainclothes troops evicted MPs as they attempted to impeach the speaker in the tiny state’s parliament.

mal1 Maldives Source: Google Maps

THE UNITED STATES has asked the Maldives to restore faith in democracy after the government deployed troops to parliament to forcibly remove opposition politicians, sparking chaotic scenes.

The US expressed concern about “irregularities” that impeded a free and fair vote in parliament, after plainclothes soldiers evicted MPs as they attempted to impeach the speaker.

“We call on the government to restore faith in democratic processes by ensuring free and impartial proceedings in parliament,” the US embassy to Sri Lanka and the Maldives said in a statement.

It came as the Maldives’ ruling party sacked the country’s former strongman president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as its leader, after he led an unsuccessful rebellion against his half-brother, who is now in power.

Gayoom’s sacking followed an abortive bid to impeach the speaker and take control of parliament, as part of a pact he entered over the weekend with exiled opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed.

National President Abdulla Yameen had recently taken executive control of the party, but his half-brother was its nominal president.

“Gayoom has been accused of sympathising with the opposition,” said a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) official who asked not to be named.

His ideology no longer aligns with that of the PPM.

Gayoom had urged PPM legislators to vote with the opposition yesterday to impeach the speaker of the house, a move aimed at undermining Yameen’s hold on power before 2018 elections.

Nasheed had hoped that the surprise alliance with Gayoom would provide enough parliamentary support to oust the speaker.

Instead there were chaotic scenes in parliament as opposition legislators staged a rowdy protest before losing the vote as some of their members were physically carried away by troops.

shutterstock_159659003 Malé - the capital of the Maldives. Source: Shutterstock/Chumash Maxim

Unprecedented disturbance

The government blamed the chaos on the opposition.

“The no-confidence motion (impeachment) was defeated after unprecedented disturbances perpetrated by the opposition members inside the parliament chamber,” the government said in a statement.

Media were not allowed access, but images posted on social media showed several opposition-aligned MPs being evicted while armed police kept opposition supporters from gathering outside the building.

“What we saw in Majlis today was a total disgrace” Gayoom tweeted after the vote, referring to the country’s parliament.

The extent of govt’s fear of a free vote. All the reason why we must overhaul the system!

There was no immediate comment from Gayoom, currently on holiday in neighbouring India, on his sacking from the party.

He ruled the Maldives for three decades before founding the party when the country embraced multi-party democracy in 2008.

Nasheed became the Maldives’ first democratically elected president in 2008 by defeating Gayoom. But he narrowly lost the 2013 run-off elections to incumbent Yameen.

He now lives in exile in London after he was convicted in 2015 on terrorism charges widely seen as politically motivated.

© – AFP 2017

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