MALE // Supporters of Maldives' former president prevented the country's new leader from opening parliament and protested in the streets yesterday, three weeks after he took office in a contentious power transfer.
Backers of former President Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party blocked roads leading to parliament and clashed with police, who tried to push them aside with their shields. At least three policemen were injured and a dozen protesters were arrested.
The protesters then removed the seats reserved for the president and the speaker in parliament, preventing President Mohammed Waheed Hassan from making an inaugural speech.
The president must speak to the lawmakers and officially open a new parliamentary session after a change in leadership, according to the constitution.
Mr Hassan then went to a waiting room in parliament hoping that the opposition lawmakers would end their protest, spokesman Masood Imad said.
"He is determined to speak but the situation is still not conducive," Mr Imad said.
He was still waiting by late afternoon, nearly six hours after the protests inside and outside of parliament began.
The US embassy in Colombo in a statement expressed concern over the "disorderly protests in Male and disruption of the opening session of the Majlis."
It urged all sides to work towards a peaceful solution without letting violence complicate the issues further.
Mr Nasheed resigned last month after weeks of public protests and loss of support from the military and police. He later said he was ousted in a coup and was forced to resign at gunpoint.
A political stalemate has followed, with Mr Nasheed calling Mr Hassan's government illegitimate and campaigning for early elections. Mr Hassan, Mr Nasheed's former deputy, says the transfer was constitutional.
Maldives, a nation of 300,000 people, introduced democratic elections after 30 years of autocratic rule ended in 2008.