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Maldives plunges into power struggle

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
  • Maldives Cabinet ministers resign in power struggle with parliament
  • Junior ministers running government
  • Parliament dominated by opponents of President Mohamed Nasheed
  • Nasheed is island nation's first elected president
  • Maldives

(CNN) -- Maldivian Cabinet ministers have resigned en masse over a stalemate with the country's parliament dominated by opponents of President Mohamed Nasheed.

Junior transport and environment minister Abdulla Shahid told CNN that the legislature and the executive of the Indian Ocean island nation were now caught in a "political deadlock."

No talks have taken place since the cabinet resigned on Tuesday, he said.

Nasheed's ministers accused parliament of undermining their authority, a charge the opposition groups denied.

"Opposition MPs (members of parliament) are obstructing the business of government. They have awarded themselves powers to appoint members to independent institutions, when this is clearly a prerogative of the president," a statement posted on the Website of Nasheed's office quoted finance minister Ali Hashim as saying on the day the cabinet quit.

"They have declared that the government cannot raise any loans from abroad or rent any government or state asset without their say-so," Hashim added.

Husnu Suood, who has resigned as attorney general, said junior ministers numbering 25 are in charge of governance now.

He told CNN by phone from Male', the capital of the Maldives, that efforts were under way to hold talks with opposition parliamentarians.

Suood said the president and his deputy have not resigned.

Two MPs were arrested on Tuesday over corruption charges.

They were due to appear in court Thursday, said Suood.

He insisted there was no social unrest in the country because of the current political standoff.

The Maldives has a presidential system of governance, with separation of power between the executive and the legislature under a constitution enacted in 2008, explains the statement from Nasheed's office.

The president and the vice-president are elected directly in a popular vote.

Nasheed and his deputy were voted to power in October 2008. They are due for re-election in 2013.

The Majlis, or parliament, has 77 directly-elected members.

The new parliament was sworn in office in May 2009. The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), which is aligned to the People's Alliance party, have 34 seats in parliament with backing of a number of independent MPs.

In his comments, opposition MP Ahmed Nihan insisted the DRP and its supporting parties had been "marginalized" by the government of Nasheed, the country's first democratically-elected president.

Nihan accused the government of lacking transparency in carrying out democratic reforms.

The Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean.