Political chaos grips Maldives as Yameen fights for survival

COLOMBO — “With the Grace of Allah, I continue to be a member of PPM and its sole elected president and leader,” former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said in a defiant tweet to his followers on March 26.

Gayoom, 79, was referring to the Progressive Party of Maldives, which he founded in 2011 after ruling the Indian Ocean archipelago with an iron grip for the three decades to 2008. But it was not to be. On March 27, Gayoom was deposed from the party leadership for leading a rare parliamentary revolt against President Abdulla Yameen, his half-brother.

Gayoom’s tumble is more than a bitter family feud in South Asia’s smallest nation, a popular destination for high-end tourists. It exposes a political fault line that pits the increasingly isolated Yameen, a PPM stalwart, against a new opposition alliance. Fueling the increasingly bitter tensions between the ruling party and the opposition, Maldives police on April 6 arrested an opposition leader on accusations of plotting to overthrow the government, just days after the failed effort to impeach the speaker of parliament.

According to Maldivian opposition figures in Sri Lanka, the country’s closest neighbor, Yameen will struggle to retain a majority in the 85-member parliament.

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