Dhaka, Bangladesh
Gayoom seeks extension to state of emergency

Gayoom seeks extension to state of emergency

Male, Feb 19: The president of the Maldives asked Parliament on Monday to extend the state of emergency that has helped him reinforce his power, as political turmoil continued to churn in the Indian Ocean nation, reports AP. The 85-member Parliament was expected to vote on the proposal later Monday, one day before the current state of emergency expires. President Yameen Abdul Gayoom declared the emergency after the Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of his imprisoned political opponents, who had been convicted in widely criticized trials. Yameen asked Parliament to extend the state of emergency by two weeks. Under the emergency law, Yameen had two Supreme Court judges arrested, accusing them of corruption. Later, the remaining three judges annulled the order to release Yameen's opponents. On Sunday, the judges also delayed their earlier order to reinstate 12 pro-opposition lawmakers who were expelled after siding with the opposition. Yameen's party would have lost a majority in Parliament had they been allowed to sit. Yameen's half brother and former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was also arrested after the emergency decree, accused of conspiring with the opposition to overthrow the government. Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of Gayoom's autocratic rule. But Yameen has rolled back much of the country's democratic gains and freedoms after being elected to power in 2013. The country's traditional political alliances have been upended in recent years. Gayoom, now an opposition leader, is allied with exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed, who unseated him in the 2008 elections. Nasheed, Yameen's most prominent rival, is among the politicians ordered freed by the Supreme Court. Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. More than one-third of its 400,000 citizens live in Male, the crowded capital city. Tourism dominates the economy, with wealthy foreigners flown directly to hyper-expensive resort islands. 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, reports AFP. The Supreme Court decision late 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 backflip 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 backflip 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.

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