Maldives extends MPs` house arrest as crisis drags

A political crisis in Maldives erupted when the cabinet resigned en masse.

Colombo: A Maldivian court has extended the house arrest of two key opposition lawmakers amid a dragging power struggle between the country`s President and Parliament, an official said on Saturday.

The High Court agreed late Friday to a government appeal to keep the two MPs under house arrest for two weeks, the official said, adding that police were investigating them for allegedly trying to bribe independent MPs.

MPs Abdulla Yamin and Qasim Ibrahim, leaders of smaller opposition parties, were arrested by police on Tuesday shortly after a political crisis erupted when the cabinet resigned en masse.

President Mohamed Nasheed and the opposition-controlled Parliament are at loggerheads over how to run the atoll nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims two years after the Indian ocean state held its first multi-party elections.

Nasheed`s 13-member group of ministers quit on Tuesday, saying Parliament was blocking all its efforts to govern the country, South Asia`s most expensive tourist destination, and undermining the authority of the executive.

Officials said Nasheed welcomed a statement from the European Parliament last week urging all sides to respect the Constitution and promote good governance in the fledgling democracy.

The European Parliament had asked all sides to take "the measures which are necessary in order to promote good governance and allow the country to tackle the challenges it faces".

The Opposition People`s Party, or DRP, said it was pressing for Nasheed to resign. "People are demanding Nasheed`s immediate resignation," DRP spokesman Mohamed Shareef said.

The opposition-led Parliament does not have the required two thirds majority to impeach Nasheed who has no power to dissolve the legislature.

Under the Maldives` presidential system of government, the President handpicks his cabinet and each nomination must be approved by Parliament, which can later seek to remove a minister through a no-confidence vote.

The opposition had planned to bring a no-confidence motion against the education minister on Wednesday, but the cabinet resignation pre-empted the move.

Nasheed was elected in October 2008 for a five-year term while the majlis was elected at separate election in May 2009, also for a five-year term.

Bureau Report

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