COLOMBO • The Maldives Parliament has sacked the country's vice-president and accused him of treason, as international concern mounts over the state of democracy on the honeymoon islands.
Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to oust Mr Mohamed Jameel, who was the running mate of President Abdulla Yameen in a controversial 2013 election but has now fallen out with him.
The 45-year-old, who was abroad at the time of the vote, was also accused of colluding with the opposition, although the precise nature of the charge remains unclear.
Mr Yameen's defence minister has also been jailed on charges of trying to topple the government. Mr Yameen already faces international criticism for the jailing of the main opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed for 13 years on charges of terrorism.
The United Nations said the trial of Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, was "vastly unfair", while US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that democracy was under threat.
Mr Jameel had fallen out with Mr Yameen, the half-brother of former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for three decades till 2008.
The former vice-president, who was not allowed to defend himself, accused Mr Yameen of undermining the rule of law. "This is a testament to the state of the rule of law in the Maldives," the local Minivan News service quoted him as saying.
"Every act was planned at driving a wedge between myself and the people who elected me. My reputation was threatened and finally I started receiving threats to my life," he added.
The image of the Maldives as an upmarket tourist destination has been dented by political unrest since the toppling of Nasheed in February 2012.
Mr Yameen came to power in 2013 after a run-off vote that had been delayed on the orders of the supreme court following a first-round election led by Nasheed.
Mr Jameel has been replaced by Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, a strong supporter of the President.
Lawmakers had to vote to lower the minimum age of eligibility for the president and vice-president from 35 to 30 in order to enable Mr Adeeb to take up the position.
Mr Adeeb's rise is seen as a reflection of his staunch defence of Mr Yameen amid widespread criticism at home and overseas over the jailing of Nasheed earlier this year.
But relations between the Nasheed-led Maldivian Democratic Party and the government have since improved. Nasheed has been transferred from prison to house arrest and his colleagues are now negotiating for a full release.