Maldives SOE: A riddle, wrapped in mystery, inside an enigma!

For fourteen days, embattled Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom exploited his authority to declare a state of emergency to crackdown hard on what he calls an "honourable coup" orchestrated by his half brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, executed by his once 'trusted' top court judges.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Yameen had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed as the apex court rejected the government's 'legal and judicial' concerns over the order.

The manner in which the state of emergency was declared, understandably sparked legal and constitutional concerns after president Yameen himself checked off each and every reason under which he is allowed to exercise his constitutional power. But that was not all. President Yameen had also stripped the judiciary and the parliament from the ability to mount any challenge. Effectively, he had seized control over the entire country, crippling the remaining two powers of the state.

President Yameen has used the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including the elder Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.

But as the state of emergency expired on Tuesday, a rather desperate president has executed another contentious move that has thrown the entire constitution quite literally into the trash.

As the state of emergency was set to expire on Tuesday, president Yameen had the day before sought parliamentary approval to stretch the emergency for 45 days.

However, the united opposition lawmakers had boycotted the extraordinary sitting on Monday leaving the ruling party short on the constitutionally mandated number of MPs to go for a vote.

According to Article 87 (b) of the constitution, a parliament vote on any matter requiring compliance by citizens shall only be undertaken when more than half of the total membership of the parliament are present at the sitting at which the matter is voted upon.

But president Yameen and his ruling party interprets the constitution and the laws governing the country a little differently to the rest. After efforts to convince some of the opposition MPs to attend Tuesday's sitting failed, the parliament with only 38 government MPs voted to extend the state of emergency. The number is well short of the minimum 43 specified by the constitution. Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed before the vote had announced that only 20 votes in favour would be needed to extend the emergency. His argument was that the parliament rules of procedure does not specify a state of emergency as something that requires the compliance of citizens.

How that could even be remotely justified remains beyond comprehension. Especially when the outspoken ruling party lawmakers had until Tuesday's sitting, publicly admitted or refused to contest that 43 lawmakers would be required to extend the state of emergency.

Their own reasoning or justification contradicted their action when they had also voted to ask the Supreme Court for an interpretation of the Article on the constitutionally mandated quorum for the vote. How the Supreme Court, missing two judges including the chief justice could rule on a constitutional dispute is another legal debate altogether.

The united opposition has insisted that the country was no longer under a state of emergency. Their claim is given further weight by the fact that the Supreme Court is yet to sign off on Tuesday's parliament vote, especially when the original 14 days expired at 8pm on Tuesday.

President Yameen has become quite proficient at 'bending' the constitution to his whims. But this time, even he would struggle to justify the latest of a series of contentious moves in his rather ruthless quest to just cling to power.