Disorder engulfing Maldives heats up after attorney-general resigns, Supreme Court in limbo

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Political turmoil paralyzing the Maldives deepened Monday after the attorney-general resigned in frustration over parliament's refusal to appoint a new Supreme Court.

In an attempt to prevent the country from spiraling into judicial chaos, President Mohammed Nasheed issued a decree Sunday — the day an interim court was to have been disbanded — allowing the Supreme Court to continue administrative functions until the crisis is resolved.

Political disorder has engulfed the nation of 1,192 low-lying coral islands after the 13-member Cabinet resigned en masse in June, accusing the opposition of undermining Nasheed's powers by defeating all motions put before it. The Cabinet was reappointed last month.

Nasheed took power in the country's first democratic elections two years ago, after being repeatedly jailed under the 30-year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom he defeated in the 2008 poll.

The recent power struggle showcases the difficult transition to democracy for the country of 350,000 in the Indian Ocean archipelago, best known as a tourist paradise.

Attorney-General Husnu Suood resigned Sunday, claiming his position was untenable in the "constitutional void" triggered by parliament's failure to enact necessary legislation, Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told The Associated Press by telephone from the capital Male on Monday.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party has only 32 seats in the country's 77-member parliament. The opposition coalition, led by the Dhivehi Raithunge Party, has 36 seats, with the rest independents.

The president's decree appoints four legal practitioners to continue the day-to-day administrative functions of the Supreme Court, the president's Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said in a statement.

Zuhair said Nasheed had two options: allow the country to have no Supreme Court at all, or issue a decree so administrative functions of the Supreme Court could continue.

"The President chose the latter option," Zuhair said.

(This version CORRECTS dateline)