Maldives parliament approves extension of state of emergency by 30 days

In this Feb. 3, 2018, photo, Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, center, surrounded by his body guards arrives to address his supporters in Male, Maldives. (AP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Maldives parliament approves extension of state of emergency by 30 days

MALE: Parliament in the Maldives on Tuesday approved a 30-day extension of a state of emergency sought by President Abdulla Yameen who cited an ongoing national security threat and constitutional crisis.
Countries including the United States, India and Canada along with the United Nations have urged Yameen to lift the emergency and restore normalcy.
Tour operators say hundreds of hotel bookings have been canceled daily since the 15-day emergency was imposed on Feb. 5 despite government assurances that all is normal in the resort islands, which are far from the capital.
Yameen imposed the emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders and ordered his government to free those held in prison.
The emergency “shall only apply to those alleged to have carried out illegal activities – it shall not apply to otherwise law abiding residents of, or visitors to, the Maldives,” a statement from Yameen’s office said on Tuesday.
The US State Department issued a statement on Tuesday saying Washington was disappointed by the extension of the state of emergency.
Since Feb. 5, the government has arrested the chief justice, another Supreme Court judge and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on charges of attempting to usurp power.
Yameen has ignored the court rulings but stopped short of saying he would not obey them. He has jailed opposition members and fired two police chiefs who said they would uphold the court rulings.
Yameen took power in 2013 and his recent moves aim to consolidate power ahead of an election this year.
The country’s neighbor India urged the government to release the nine opposition leaders as required by the Supreme Court.
All 38 ruling party lawmakers approved the vote at an extraordinary session of parliament boycotted by the opposition who cited the constitution to say it required 43 MPs.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is in exile, said the government could not extend the emergency without 43 votes.
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, leader of the opposition coalition’s parliamentary group, said: “This state of emergency is illegal .... Yameen has, in effect, hijacked the entire state and is ruling the Maldives like a military dictator.”
Parliament says it passed the extension to the emergency under a procedure that does not require a quorum and it sought an opinion on the matter from the Supreme Court.
Former attorney general Ahmed Ali Sawad said more than half of MPs should be present for a vote on the emergency decree.
“This is fundamental legislative check on an executive action having wide ranging ramifications on the rights, liberties and affairs of the people,” Sawad told Reuters.
Shahinda Ismail, executive director of Maldives Democracy Network said the ruling party has effectively and completely removed all democratic and lawful systems of governance.


Zimbabwe’s split opposition helping Mugabe’s successor to victory

Supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa sit, during the launch of the party's election manifesto in Harare, Thursday, June, 7, 2018. (AP)
Updated 24 min 28 sec ago
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Zimbabwe’s split opposition helping Mugabe’s successor to victory

  • Twenty-three candidates — the highest number in the country’s election history — are in the running for the presidential race after haggling over the allocation of parliamentary seats
  • In May the party held a so-called “healing session” to appease disgruntled members who had threatened to “donate” their votes to the opposition

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s divided opposition could bolster the long ruling party’s chances of victory after failing to forge a solid coalition for the country’s first elections without Robert Mugabe.
Twenty-three candidates — the highest number in the country’s election history — are in the running for the presidential race after haggling over the allocation of parliamentary seats, scuttling a plan by the opposition to form a united front in general elections due on July 30.
But the real battle is seen to be between the ruling Zanu-PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the party which has posed the most formidable challenge to Zanu-PF’s grip on power.
The main presidential candidates are Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who succeeded Mugabe after a brief military takeover last November and Nelson Chamisa, 40, who took over as leader of the MDC following the death of opposition veteran Morgan Tsvangirai in February.
“The unprecedented numbers of aspiring candidates is an indication of the opening of political space and an interest by Zimbabweans to take part in politics,” said Rushweat Mukundu, of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.
Mnangagwa who took over from Mugabe, ending his nearly four-decade rule in which he presided over the country’s economic and political decline, has vowed to hold clean elections and break from past history of violence-tainted polls.
Zanu-PF “has created the impression that it has broken from its past of violent and contestable elections, hence the unprecedented numbers of those who have come out to contest,” said Harare-based independent analyst Alexander Rusero, adding many have no following “beyond their small cliques and the churches they attend.”
“At best this is counterfeit democracy,” which festers confusion among the opposition while Mnangagwa enjoys the benefit of incumbency.
Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party, riven by factionalism which began as a battle over Mugabe’s succession, is also battling to stay together.

In May the party held a so-called “healing session” to appease disgruntled members who had threatened to “donate” their votes to the opposition, or stand as independents amid accusations of rigging and favoritism during primary elections.
“It’s not the number of candidates that’s worrying but the phenomenon of rebels who are insisting on standing without the blessing of their parties,” according to University of Zimbabwe’s Eldred Masunungure.
“This is going to have an impact on both Zanu-PF and the MDC Alliance.”
Some 5.6 million people are registered to vote in the election which has attracted the interest of many first-time voters desperate for change in a country ruled by Zanu-PF rule since independence from Britain in 1980.
“I was born under Zanu-PF and all I have known is poverty and suffering,” said Harare street vendor, Takudzwa Mutepeya “for us this is a vote for change.”
Mnangagwa has pledged to revive the country’s moribund economy which took a toll from years of misrule, and to mend fences with Zimbabwe’s former Western allies who severed ties over the Mugabe regime’s tainted human rights record.
Chamisa has said, if elected, he will create a $100-billion economy in a decade.

Other candidates include Mugabe’s former deputy Joice Mujuru, ex-cabinet minister Nkosana Moyo, Thokozani Khupe from a breakaway faction of the MDC, and musician and sculptor Taurai Mteki.
Businesswoman Violet Mariyacha, 61, returned home after 25 years in Britain, to join the presidential race.
“I could not continue watching my people suffering,” she told AFP. “I came to be the new face of Zimbabwe’s politics.”
Human rights activist and presidential candidate Lovemore Madhuku is in the election “to introduce an alternative voice. We are fed up with ... having two dominant parties that are simply doing nothing except fighting each other.”
Previous elections have been marred by violence, intimidation and charges of electoral fraud including stuffing of the electoral roll with phantom voters including long-deceased people.
In 2008 the then opposition leader Tsvangirai withdrew from a presidential run-off election citing the deaths of scores of his supporters.
The lead-up to the election has so far been calm. For the first time the state broadcaster covered the launch of the main opposition MDC’s manifesto live on television while police allowed a march calling for reforms including giving foreign-based citizens to right to vote without having to travel back home.