Maldivian lawmaker Faisal Naseem who was injured in clashes with police is rushed to a hospital in Male, Maldives, Monday, July 24, 2017. The Maldivian opposition says the military has locked down parliament on the orders of the country’s president in a bid to prevent lawmakers from taking part in a vote to impeach the parliamentary speaker. (AP Photo/Ahmed Shurau)
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Maldivian president ordered the military to lock down parliament Monday in a bid to prevent lawmakers from taking part in a vote to impeach the parliamentary speaker, the country’s opposition party said, leading to clashes after opposition lawmakers stormed the compound.
Members of the armed forces padlocked the gates of parliament on orders from President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and lawmakers “were forcibly prevented from entering the parliamentary compound,” the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said.
Some opposition lawmakers broke through the barrier, but they were forcibly thrown out by military and police who even pepper-sprayed them, said party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.
In a statement, the opposition party called Yameen’s action “desperate, illegal and unconstitutional.”
Maldives police said the government restricted access to the parliament building as the session was canceled and that police were asked to intervene by Maldives National Defense Force in “clearing out individuals who forcefully entered the parliament building.”
In a statement, police also said they are investigating the obstruction of police duty by the lawmakers who broke into the restricted area.
A no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed was scheduled to be taken up Monday. The opposition says the motion has gained support from 45 lawmakers in the 85-member house.
However, an uncertainty arose when the election commission announced last week that 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.
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.
In March, Nasheed and former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two other parties signed an agreement to form an opposition alliance.
Maumoon runs a rival faction within the Progressive Party of Maldives, which is led by the current president, his half-brother.
Nasheed was jailed in 2015 for 13 years for ordering the arrest of a senior judge when he was president in 2012.
However, he traveled to Britain last year on medical leave and received asylum there. Three other leading politicians have also been jailed after trials criticized internationally for a lack of due process. Yameen is accused of rolling back many of the democratic gains since the Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008.
Maldives, a South Asian archipelago known for its luxury tourist resorts.
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