Maldives ex-leader vows to fight after police scrap vote

MALE, Maldives (AFP) - Maldivian opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday vowed to fight for elections a day after police forced the postponement of the presidential vote he was expected to win.

Nasheed, a former president, told supporters at a rally in the capital that they should keep up their campaign to ensure elections in a country which adopted multi-party elections five years ago.

"I will not stop, I will remain steadfast," Nasheed said at the rally in the early hours.

Maldivian police moved to stop the independent Elections Commission from holding Saturday's presidential vote saying it was "illegal," a move that triggered international concern.

Nasheed was widely expected to win Saturday's ballot after securing more than 45 percent of the popular vote at the now annulled September 7 election.

The Supreme Court called fresh elections after upholding a petition from a third-placed candidate that there were voter list irregularities although international observers said that election was credible, free and fair.

After the Maldivian police blocked the Elections Commission from going ahead with the re-run elections on Saturday, hundreds of Nasheed loyalists took to the streets to stage a demonstration denouncing the authorities.

"Be angry," Nasheed told his supporters.

"Do not be disheartened. Melancholy lowers your spirits. Anger makes you determined, makes you act. We should be angry at this moment." By Sunday morning, the crowds had dispersed and streets appeared calm.

Elections chief Fuwad Thowfeek went on national television on Saturday night saying he would normally need three weeks to organise another election.

However, the Maldivian constitution requires that a new president be in place by November 11 and he would try to have it by November 2 or 9.

Outgoing president Mohamed Waheed has suggested the poll takes place next weekend.

Regional power India issued a strongly worded statement expressing deep disappointment over the cancellation of an election that had international support.

"India and the international community have been closely watching the developments in Maldives and are seriously concerned at the attempts to stall the democratic process," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

New Delhi demanded that Maldivian authorities make sure a fresh election is held without delay.

The election was meant to end political tensions that followed the controversial downfall of Nasheed, in February last year, but it has caused more instability in a country that embraced multi-party democracy in 2008.