The Maldives Supreme Court has postponed the final round of presidential elections indefinitely after allegations of vote rigging, further widening the ongoing political dispute.
Monday’s court decision comes four days before the election run-off, which was scheduled for September 28.
The Jumhooree Party, which fielded as its candidate tourism and media tycoon Qasim Ibrahim, filed the allegation last week, seeking an annulment of results. Ibrahim has claimed that the voter's registry contained the names of dead, underage and imaginary people.
In its ruling, the court ordered the government to postpone the elections until the court "decides in the case before it."
No clear winner
The September 7 vote finished without a clear winner, with Ibrahim finishing third, narrowly missing a place in the run-off.
Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president, won more than 45 percent of the vote but needed 50 percent to avoid the run-off against Abdullah Yameen, the half-brother of the islands' former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
After the court decision, members of Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party staged demonstrations, demanding that the election be held as scheduled.
The country has been in political turmoil since Nasheed resigned last year after weeks of public protests and slipping support from the military and police. He later said he was forced to resign at gunpoint by mutinying security forces and politicians backed by the country's former autocrat.
The dispute showcases the challenges the young democracy faces, having held its first-ever multi-party election in 2008 after 30 years of autocratic rule.