The court's decision strengthens President Abdulla Yameen's majority in the 85-member legislature that will vote to extend the state of emergency for a month.

Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen, is seen at a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (file photo).
Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen, is seen at a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (file photo). (AP)

The Maldives' top court has suspended 12 pro-opposition legislators, emboldening President Abdulla Yameen, who on Monday sought to extend a state of emergency by another month.

The Supreme Court decision late Sunday reverses its original order to reinstate the MPs, who had defected from the ruling party. It came as parliament prepares to ratify the state of emergency declared by Yameen two weeks ago that plunged the Maldives into crisis.

The court had ruled on February 1, 2018 that the 12 defectors be reinstalled as legislators, reducing the president's party to minority rule in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

MPs will vote on Tuesday on rubber stamping the existing state of emergency and renewing it for a further 30 days.

Explore: How a sleepy holiday paradise got embroiled in a political mess

Yameen's office said he wanted it extended by a further month "as the threat to national security has not diminished and the constitutional crisis has not been resolved."

The state of emergency gives wide powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects.

The three-judge bench said on Sunday night that it was suspending the February 1 order to reinstate the politicians following an appeal by the attorney general.

It is the second U-turn by the Supreme Court since Yameen ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court judge just two weeks ago as he declared the state of emergency.

Earlier, in February the remaining judges of the court reversed their earlier order to release nine political prisoners, including Yameen's main rival Mohamed Nasheed.

That ruling threw the popular holiday islands into turmoil as Yameen cracked down on his opponents.

His estranged half-brother, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was among those arrested on a charge of bribing Supreme Court justices to topple the government through a constitutional coup.

Yameen has faced international censure over his refusal to abide by the top court's rulings and his declaration of a state of emergency, described by the UN human rights chief as "an all-out assault on democracy."

The unrest has dented the Maldives' image as a popular holiday destination. The nation's top earner is tourism, with honeymooners drawn by its pristine islands and crystal-clear blue waters.

Source: AFP