The Maldives Supreme Court has annulled the first round of voting in presidential elections won by former president Mohamed Nasheed and called fresh elections on October 20.

"The court in a majority decision of 4-3 annulled the elections [held on September 7] and ordered fresh elections on October 20," a court official told reporters after the long-awaited judgement.

Nasheed secured more than 45 percent of the first round votes but fell short of the 50 percent needed.

A runoff between him and his closest rival, Yaamin Abdul Qayyoom, brother of the country's former autocrat, was postponed by the Supreme Court after the third-placed candidate alleged fraud in the first round.

Nasheed, who became the country's first democratically elected president in 2008 and ending a 30-year autocracy, was ousted last year after public protests over his order to arrest a judge.

TV station torched

Earlier on Monday, masked men broke into a pro-opposition television station in the capital and set a fire that gutted the studio, the second attack there in two years.

Akram Kamaludeen, owner of Rajje TV, said the men on motorbikes threatened and chased away a security guard before the attack. Other offices in the building in Male were also damaged.

Kamaludeen said there was no evidence that pointed to a suspect. He said President Mohamed Waheed Hassan's government and his allies have been upset with the station's coverage.

Last year, attackers broke into the TV station's building and cut cables, disrupting its broadcasts.

The station backs the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, and authorities have barred it from covering government events.

"This is a dark day for press freedom in the Maldives," said Kamaludeen, saying police did not protect the station despite prior threats and has not investigating the previous attack.

Police were patrolling the neighborhood at the time of the attack and are investigating how the group broke in, said police spokesman Hassan Hanif.

Source: Agencies