Maldives cancels presidential run-off election

MALE (Reuters) - The Maldives has cancelled a presidential run-off election that was due to take place on Saturday after the Supreme Court ordered officials to postpone it.

The archipelago's election commission took the decision on Friday - hours after the court, in a special midnight session, ruled the poll should be delayed indefinitely and told security forces to act against anyone who did not obey its order.

The ruling followed a complaint of voting irregularities from a losing candidate in the first round of voting on September 7 which was won by former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose removal from power 20 months ago ignited months of unrest. The run-off was expected to help end the political turmoil.

"The Supreme Court has ordered security services to prevent any effort to hold the election tomorrow. This is why we are not able to hold the run-off election within the constitutional deadline of 21 days," the election commission said.

"Therefore voting will not take place on September 28, as the environment is not conducive to a free, fair and democratic election," the statement said.

Nasheed secured 45.45 percent in the first round, short of the 50 percent needed for outright victory. In the run-off, he was due to face Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of longtime ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who came second.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party announced mass protests after the Supreme Court ruling.

(Reporting by J.J Robinson; Writing by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Pravin Char)

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