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Maldives Opposition In New Bid To Take Control of Parliament

Maldives opposition parties said on Monday they would launch a fresh bid to seize control of parliament by impeaching the speaker, weeks after their first attempt failed when the president called in troops to evict lawmakers.

A coalition of opposition parties said it had submitted a no-confidence motion on Sunday with the support of 31 MPs — enough to force a vote in the 85-member majlis, or parliament.

But after the motion was submitted the government increased the number of signatures required for such a motion to 42, leaving it unclear whether a vote would go ahead.

The coalition, led by exiled opposition leader and former Maldives leader Mohamed Nasheed, is trying to undermine President Abdulla Yameen before elections next year.

It faces an uphill struggle, with all opposition leaders now in exile or in jail after a years-long crackdown on dissent under Yameen’s leadership.

The clampdown has raised fears over the country’s stability and dented its image as a tourist paradise.

On Monday the coalition led by Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accused the government of making “abrupt and arbitrary changes to the parliamentary standing orders, designed to derail the second no confidence motion submitted against the speaker”.

Last month’s motion ended in chaos when Yameen ordered troops to eject some lawmakers from parliament, leading the opposition to boycott the vote and prompting Washington to urge the Maldives to restore faith in democracy.

Nasheed has said that taking control of the legislature is crucial to ensuring a free and fair presidential election in 2018.

The government said the second impeachment bid was a “deliberate attack on the administration” and accused the opposition of trying to stoke political unrest.

The latest move comes days after Yameen locked up the last opposition leader still at liberty in the honeymoon island nation of just 340,000 people.

Qasim Ibrahim, who ran for president in 2013 and heads the Jumhooree Party, was one of four signatories of an opposition unity deal aimed at toppling the president.

Nasheed became the country’s first democratically elected president in 2008, but was narrowly defeated by Yameen in a controversial 2013 election run-off.

In 2015 he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges that were widely seen as politically motivated. He now lives in exile in Britain.

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