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Maldives parliament seats Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the Maldives [BBC backgrounder] was seated Tuesday [press release] after the parliament passed stalled legislation making the body permanent. The legislation, the Act on Judges, was passed by the People's Majlis [official website, in Dhivehi] and makes the country's interim Supreme Court [official website, in Dhivehi] permanent, setting the powers and responsibilities of the court [CP report] and the rules on judges' appointment and salaries. Following the passage of the bill, the Majlis approved the appointments to the court made by President Mohamed Nasheed [official website]. Officials praised the legislation as creating an independent judiciary [AFP report] and strengthening the Maldivian democracy. The original failure to pass the legislation caused the resignation [JURIST report] of Attorney General Husnu Al-Suood [official website] Sunday. In his resignation letter, Al-Suood accused the opposition-controlled legislature of having "deliberately not attended to its duties," making it impossible for the Attorney General's Office to function. Nasheed responded by issuing a decree creating a substitute interim body to fulfill the basic administrative duties of the Supreme Court. Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair chastised the legislative opposition for its failure to permanently institute the court. On Monday, the nation's high Civil Court ruled [Miadhu report] that the interim Supreme Court could not be disbanded before the establishment of a permanent Supreme Court.

The Maldives has faced ongoing political difficulties following the adoption of its constitution [JURIST report] in late 2008. Nasheed defeated longtime political opponent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom [BBC profile], who had jailed him numerous times during his 30-year rule. However, Nasheed's ruling Maldavian Democratic Party holds only 32 of 77 seats in the parliament, while the opposition Dhivehi Raithunge Party [party websites] holds 36. Opposition legislators have blocked the ruling party's legislative agenda, leaving certain crucial provisions of the new constitutional system unestablished. This resulted in the resignation of Nasheed's entire cabinet [BBC report] in June. Replacement appointments have been made, but have yet to be ratified by the Majlis. The Maldives Constitution [text, PDF] provides for multi-party elections, an independent judiciary and grants more authority to the legislature. It also enumerates fundamental rights of citizens and establishes several special commissions on issues relating to human rights and corruption. The new constitution was drafted in response to international criticism [AI report, PDF] of 2003 government actions against protesters of prison conditions in the country.

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