Eggs hurled in parliament as Maldives crisis drags on

Malé (Maldives) (AFP) –


Lawmakers belonging to rival parties hurled eggs across the Maldives parliament Thursday in chaotic scenes described by a top US envoy as "disturbing" as a protracted political crisis in the honeymoon islands worsened.

The disturbance came as the speaker -- a close ally of President Abdulla Yameen -- who is fighting impeachment issued directives from behind a ring of plain-clothes troops inside the chamber.

Parliament has been in turmoil since March when troops were deployed to remove opposition MPs trying to file impeachment proceedings against the speaker.

The government has since changed parliamentary rules to ward off the impeachment and sacked MPs from Yameen's own party who sided with the opposition to remove his ally from the speaker's chair.

The egg-throwing incident comes less than a month after Maldivian troops blockaded parliament and fired tear gas during clashes with opposition leaders.

Months of political upheaval in the Maldives has dented its image as a tourist paradise.

US ambassador Atul Keshap labelled Thursday's events "disturbing and unfortunate".

"I call upon the government of Maldives to ensure that the majlis (parliament) function freely in accordance with Maldivian law and parliamentary procedure," Keshap said in a statement.

It is not the first time the US, among other nations, have urged the Maldives to safeguard democracy amid a crackdown by Yameen on his political opponents, most of whom are in exile or jail.

A coalition led by former president Mohamed Nasheed wants to defeat Yameen at elections next year and sees the impeachment of the Speaker as a first step to taking control of parliament to ensure free and fair polls next year.

The first attempt to impeach the speaker in March triggered chaos when troops acting on Yameen's orders stormed parliament and removed dissenting opponents by force.

Nasheed became the Maldives' first democratically-elected president in 2008, but was narrowly defeated by Yameen in a controversial 2013 election run-off.

In 2015, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges that were widely seen as politically motivated. He now lives in exile in Britain.