Police prevent Maldives election

Police in the Maldives are preventing a presidential election from going ahead, eyewitnesses in the capital Male say.

The electoral commission made a last-minute announcement that the vote would be held as planned on Saturday.

But commission head Fuwad Thowfeek said police had entered his offices and were stopping officials distributing election materials.

Two candidates had sought to have the poll delayed, because they had not approved the voter register.

Last week, the Maldives Supreme Court annulled the result of the first round of the elections held in September because of alleged irregularities.

The main opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed won 45% in that poll against 5% for current President Mohamed Waheed.

Mr Waheed has since withdrawn from the election.

Mr Nasheed now faces two opponents – Gasim Ibrahim and Abdulla Yameen – neither of whom has approved the voter register.

Early on Saturday, Mr Thowfeek had announced: “We will hold the election in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court.”

The start of the voting may be delayed in some places, but we will allow more time for people to cast their ballots.”

However, within hours police were at the electoral commission and Mr Thowfeek was obliged to call the election off.

International observers had all praised the conduct of the first-round election, and the Supreme Court’s decision to annul it was condemned by Mr Nasheed’s supporters.

Mr Nasheed came to power in 2008 in the Maldives’ first free elections, but resigned amid violent protests and a mutiny by senior police officers in February 2012.