Maldives government hit by defections in Parliament

Six lawmakers from the Maldives government have defected to work with the opposition in the party's first open split and a major challenge to President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's rule.

The ruling party is now split between factions led by Yameen and by his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the autocratic former leader whose 30-year rule ended when the country became a democracy in 2008.

Lawmaker Faris Maumoon said Friday that lawmakers supporting his father Maumoon withdrew support for Yameen in the 85-member Parliament. He said the defecting lawmakers will work with the opposition to rectify recent reversals in democracy under Yameen.

The number of lawmakers supporting Yameen has dropped to 47 from 53. The combined opposition has 38 seats and Faris said more are expected to join.