Supporters of Maldives' presidential election front-runner protest postponement of runoff

Hundreds of supporters of the front-runner in the Maldives' presidential election demonstrated Friday against a court decision to postpone this weekend's runoff, amid international concern over the country's young democracy.

The Supreme Court earlier this week postponed the runoff until it hears a petition challenging the first-round election result.

Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, and his Maldivian Democratic Party supporters demanded Friday that the election be held as scheduled Saturday.

Nasheed led the Sept. 7 first round with more than 45 percent of the vote, but failed to muster the needed 50 percent to win. He was to face Yaamin Abdul Qayyoom, a brother of the country's longtime autocrat, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in the runoff.

Qasim Ibrahim, who finished a close third, challenged the result, claiming a flawed voters' registry.

Nasheed's party has accused the court of backing Gayoom.

"The Supreme Court has lost all credibility in the eyes of Maldivians and the watching world," MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said in a statement.

The United States, the United Nations, Australia and India have all praised the conduct of the first round. The European Union has asked that the runoff election be held according to schedule.

The country held its first-ever multi-party election in 2008 after Gayoom's 30-year autocratic rule.