(Reuters) - The Maldives speaker of parliament survived an impeachment vote on Monday amid chaos after a dozen opposition legislators were sent out from the chamber for unruly behaviour.
The motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, a close ally of President Abdulla Yameen, was defeated by 48 vote against none in an 85-member parliament after all opposition lawmakers walked out in protest at their colleagues’ expulsion.
Opposition legislators said Yameen’s coalition suddenly changed the usual electronic voting system just before the impeachment so it would not show how members voted.
An opposition coalition including the parties of exiled ex-leader Mohamed Nasheed and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had said some government legislators were expected to vote for impeachment.
Maldives Independent, an online news website, showed videos of opposition legislators being physically forced out of the chamber before the vote. The public, media, and non-government organisations were also barred from parliament during the vote.
Ruling party member Abdullah Khaleel said on Twitter the public was not admitted “to avoid planned disruption by the opposition”.
Nasheed’s party said in a statement that 13 opposition law makers were forcibly removed by military officers after being manhandled, dragged and subject to disproportionate force.
Government officials were not available for comment immediately despite repeated calls.
The opposition submitted the impeachment motion, saying the speaker has been deliberately ignoring requests from opposition law makers to summon government officials for questioning on matters of public importance and national development.
The Indian Ocean island nation has been mired in political unrest since Nasheed, its first democratically elected leader, was ousted in 2012. He was later sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges after a widely denounced trial.
Nasheed now lives in exile.
Yameen’s administration has arrested most opponents who might challenge him in 2018. The opposition alleges the administration is trying to cover up corruption including money laundering. The government has denied the accusations.
The largely Muslim island chain with a population of 400,000 has other looming problems that tarnish its reputation as a tourist paradise. Significant numbers of radicalised Maldives youths have enlisted to fight for Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Tom Heneghan