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Reprieve for Muizzu as Maldives' Supreme Court suspends impeachment amendment

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Male, Feb 8 (PTI) In a respite for Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of a recent amendment to Parliament’s standing orders that had made it easier for the opposition lawmakers to impeach the president and the vice president, local media reports said.

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The constitution declares that an impeachment motion against the president or vice president requires the vote of two-thirds of the members of Parliament. However, the House had recently amended its standing orders to make it easier to submit an impeachment motion by lowering the number of votes required for it.

The Attorney General’s Office filed the case with the Supreme Court over the amendment on January 28. It also asked for an injunction to suspend the amendment until the court makes a final ruling.

The case was heard by the full bench of the Supreme Court, Sun.mv, a news portal, reported.

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Describing the chain of events in the run-up to the development, the report said that the Election Commission had decided against holding by-elections when seven lawmakers resigned from Parliament in November to assume top positions in President Muizzu’s administration, saying that the parliamentary elections are to be held soon.

Taking advantage of the situation, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – which holds a majority in the Parliament – amended Parliament’s standing orders so that vacated seats aren’t counted when determining the total number of MPs, the report said.

It meant only 54 votes were required to impeach President Muizzu, instead of the previous 58, as, post the amendment, the total number of MPs would be counted as 80 instead of 87.

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In January, the MDP and the Democrats announced an alliance to work together in the Parliament and hence have 56 MPs between them; 43 from the MDP, and 13 from the Democrats.

On January 28, the Attorney General’s Office had filed the case, the same day when the MDP-Democrats alliance stalled the approval of three members of President Muizzu’s cabinet and clashes broke out in the House between pro-government MPs and opposition lawmakers following differences over the approval of four members of the cabinet.

The next day, on January 29, the MDP had announced that it planned to submit a motion to impeach President Muizzu and that it already started gathering signatures for the same.

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court accepted the proposition by the State to annul the amendment to the Parliament Regulations, Edition.mv said.

Now, on Thursday, “Justice Azmiralda Zahir, Justice Mahaz Ali Zahir, and Justice Husnu Al Suood found in favour of issuing the injunction, citing the need to maintain the status quo. But Justice Aisha Shujoon Mohamed and Justice Mohamed Ibrahim found there were no grounds to issue the injunction, citing that the case was submitted a month after the passage of the amendment,” Sun.mv reported.

Pro-China Muizzu, 45, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September last year. On January 24, calling India the “most long-standing ally,” the MDP and the Democrats expressed concern about the Muizzu government’s “anti-India stance.” The Maldives' proximity to India, barely 70 nautical miles from the island of Minicoy in Lakshadweep and 300 nautical miles from the mainland's western coast, and its location at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) gives it significant strategic importance.

The Maldives is India's key maritime neighbour in the IOR and occupies a special place in its initiatives like SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the Neighbourhood First Policy' of the Narendra Modi government. PTI NPK AKJ NPK NPK

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