The Maldivian opposition said that the military locked down parliament on Monday on the orders of the country’s president in a bid to prevent lawmakers from voting against the parliamentary speaker, who is accused of ignoring allegations of corruption and rights abuses, by the opposition.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said that on the orders of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, “On Monday morning the gates of the parliament were padlocked by members of the armed forces and MPs were forcibly prevented from entering the parliamentary compound.”
In a statement, the opposition party called Yameen’s action “desperate, illegal and unconstitutional.”
There was no immediate comment from the government. The government spokesmen could not be reached by telephone.
A no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed was scheduled to be taken up on Monday. The opposition says the motion has gained the support of 45 lawmakers in the 85-member house. However, an uncertainty arose when the election commission announced last week that the four members who supported the motion had lost their seats because they left the ruling party.
The motion was considered a severe blow to Yameen, whose control over parliament was threatened by a new understanding between the Maldives’ former strongman and its first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed. The Maldivian Democratic Party routed Yameen’s party in local council elections earlier this year.
Ahmed Mahloof, an opposition lawmaker, said soldiers carrying batons followed the members inside on Monday and forcibly ejected them.
“Soldiers in riot gear are dragging elected members out from the parliament,” Mahloof told Al Jazeera. “This is clearly unconstitutional. Many of us have been injured.”
“There is no better symbol of Yameen’s dictatorship than the image of his security forces barring elected MPs from parliament. This president has lost all legitimacy and credibility,” said Eva Abdulla, an opposition lawmaker from the Maldivian Democratic Party.
Yameen has arrested or forced into exile most of the opponents who might have challenged him in next year’s presidential elections.
A similar opposition bid to oust the speaker was thwarted in March when the government defeated it by 48 votes, with none opposing. At the time, opposition lawmakers were either evicted or walked out from a vote on ousting the speaker following a dispute over problems with the electronic voting system.
The coalition’s plan to wrest the parliamentary majority was aimed at reforming the judiciary, elections commission and other bodies perceived as being partial toward Yameen.