Maldives ejected from Commonwealth panel over vote delay

MALE, Maldives (AFP) - The Commonwealth expelled the Maldives on Wednesday from its disciplinary panel, which has begun investigating the political chaos in the country after repeated court interventions that scuttled elections, a diplomat said.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which can recommend the expulsion of countries from the 53-member bloc, ejected the Indian Ocean islands during a meeting in the Sri Lankan capital on Wednesday.

"As long as Maldives remains on the agenda of CMAG, it can't be a member of this panel," the diplomat said after the Commonwealth issued a statement confirming that the Maldives was discussed on Wednesday.

The country faces a constitutional crisis after three presidential elections were cancelled, with Western and Indian diplomats increasingly vocal in their criticism of the regime of incumbent Mohamed Waheed.

Opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed has won two votes in the last two months with more than 45 per cent of ballots, but a run-off election has been repeatedly delayed by the Supreme Court.

"Ministers will continue to monitor the situation in Maldives closely over the coming days," the Commonwealth said in a statement. "The chair of CMAG will brief Commonwealth heads of government on 15 November 2013, when they meet in Colombo."

Mr Nasheed resigned in February 2012 following demonstrations and a mutiny by security forces, which he denounced as a coup engineered by Waheed and former former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The Maldives, an upmarket honeymoon destination famed for its coral-fringed islands, began with multi-party democracy for the first time in 2008 after 30 years of control by Mr Gayoom.

Commonwealth leaders are massing in Sri Lanka ahead of a three-day summit starting on Friday.