Maldives home minister sacked ahead of key vote

COLOMBO (AFP) - The Maldivian home minister Mohamed Jameel was sacked on Saturday shortly after he announced his candidature for the vice-presidency in crucial elections in September, the government said.

Dr Jameel, a key figure in President Mohamed Waheed's administration, had declared he would be the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) running mate to Mr Abdulla Yamin, the half-brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

"The president gave him an option of either choosing to be a candidate or remain in the cabinet," presidential spokesman Masood Imad told AFP by telephone. "The president today sacked him after he announced he will be a candidate."

Dr Jameel confirmed he had been sacked and in a message on his official Twitter said he was extending his wishes to President Waheed for the upcoming elections, but cautioned he was also determined to win.

"I extend my well wishes to... Waheed and his team's attempt to win the upcoming election which PPM will also attempt to win and succeed," Dr Jameel tweeted.

The president is leading an uneasy coalition after assuming office following the controversial February 2012 resignation of Mr Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader.

A Commonwealth-supervised investigation rejected Mr Nasheed's claim of a coup and upheld that Mr Waheed, the then-deputy to Mr Nasheed, become president in line with the constitution.

Mr Waheed is tipped to challenge Mr Nasheed at the September 7 presidential elections where Mr Yamin, who leads the PPM, is expected to mount a serious challenge in the country of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.

The Indian Ocean honeymoon destination of the Maldives, which has some 1,192 coral islands scattered across the equator, has been troubled by political unrest and Islamic extremism in recent years.