Male, Maldives: The former leader of the Maldives who was the front-runner in elections due this weekend called Tuesday for nationwide protests after the archipelago’s Supreme Court suspended the vote.

Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) asked supporters to join peaceful demonstrations, threatening more unrest in the troubled honeymoon destination that has faced more than a year and half of uncertainty.

Nasheed won the first round of voting on 7 September with 45.45% and faced a run-off contest on Saturday against Abdullah Yameen, the half-brother of the islands’ former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“I have been fortunate enough to get the support of 45% of the people in the first round of the presidential elections," 46-year-old Nasheed told AFP in an email.

“The dictatorship cannot digest this and have used their cronies through their kangaroo courts to delay their ultimate defeat," he added.

His opponent in the second round, Yameen, has said there was “nothing unconstitutional" in the Supreme Court’s order.

However, MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor told AFP the court decision had led to “immense instability and has the potential to trigger violence".

The Supreme Court ordered the second round of voting to be delayed while it examined a complaint about alleged electoral fraud.

The polls were seen as a test for the Maldives’ young democracy a year and a half after the violent ousting of Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president.

Nasheed resigned in February last year after a mutiny by police which he described as a coup orchestrated by Gayoom, who had ruled the islands for three decades.

Gayoom denied any involvement.

Nasheed told a party meeting in the capital Male on Monday night that he expected elections commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq to ignore the Supreme Court and go ahead with the vote on Saturday.

“I request the security services to assist the elections commissioner in holding elections this Saturday," Nasheed said.

“To Maldivians, I say, don’t be disheartened. What the people will, will take place. We knew when we began this, that it would not be a short journey, nor a small undertaking."

Shortly after the late-night MDP meeting, sporadic small protests erupted across the capital island and police used pepper spray to disperse the crowds.

MDP spokesman Ghafoor said parliamentary speaker Abdulla Shahid was one of those to be pepper-sprayed.

Local and international observer groups found the first round of voting to be free and fair, but the third-placed Jumhooree Party filed a legal challenge.

Last year’s violent power change, which saw Nasheed replaced by his deputy Mohamed Waheed, hurt the local tourist industry and left a bitter legacy of distrust.

Nasheed, a former pro-democracy campaigner, has railed against the country’s judiciary, which he sees as biased and intent on protecting the interests of Gayoom and a handful of tycoons.

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