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Thursday , March 1 , 2012
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Violence in Maldives, new President not allowed to address Parliament

Male, Mar 1 (PTI): Angry lawmakers of former President Mohammed Nasheed's party on Thursday prevented the new President from delivering the opening address in Parliament even as protesters hit the streets clashing with police, deepening the political crisis here.

Even before President Mohammed Waheed came to parliament chambers, members of Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) removed his chair as well as that of his cabinet ministers and shouted slogans demanding his resignation.

Waheed, who was scheduled to deliver the Peoples' Majlis (parliament) opening address, was forced to retreat to the waiting room.

According to the constitution here, the President must address the lawmakers and officially open a new parliamentary session after a change in leadership.

Opposition MPs also grabbed the Speaker's chair during angry scuffles. Pictures released from inside the Majlis showed MDP MPs blocking the doors and sitting on the Speaker's bench.

Opposition legislators carrying placards that called Waheed a "traitor" also blocked the Speaker's entrance to the building.

Meanwhile, outside the parliament, MDP supporters clashed with the police.

The protesters threw stones and wood bricks at them.

Police arrested at least 34 protesters including Nazim Sattar, Nasheed's younger brother, while 14 police officers were injured in the clashes, police said.

Some of the shops belonging to supporters of the current government have been vandalised.

A motorcycle being driven by two police officers was also burnt after a group of protesters stopped the duo and assaulted them, sources said.

The parliament session was scheduled to begin on Thursday, less than a month after then President Nasheed resigned paving the way for his Vice President Waheed to be sworn in as the new head of the government.

A day after his resignation on February 7, Nasheed alleged he was forced to resign and claimed there was a coup, a charge denied by the current regime.

The fresh protests erupted a day after Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai ended his two-day visit during which he held talks with various stakeholders to hammer out a solution to the political crisis here.

India had helped broker a deal under which President Waheed agreed to a roadmap for elections ahead of the scheduled November 2013 date.

No dates have been announced for elections in the island nation, where Nasheed was voted to power 2008 as their first democratically elected president.

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