Former leader Mohammed Nasheed edged ahead in the first round of the Maldives presidential race today.

The result failed to give him a clear majority which could spell more uncertainty in an election that tests the democratic credentials of the Indian Ocean state.

Mr Nasheed secured 46.66% of the total votes polled, with 472 out of 475 boxes counted, according to the provisional results from the country's Election Commission.

His main rival Abdulla Yameen won 29.88%.

Gasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, secured 23.46%.
The polls were the third Maldives attempt to elect a new leader in as many months.

A 7 September vote was annulled based on a secret police report which found vote rigging while an October poll was halted by police after a Supreme Court ruling.

The Election Commission has scheduled the run-off vote for tomorrow, but that election could be delayed.

Mr Nasheed was the country's first democratically elected leader who came to power in 2008 after 30 years of one-man rule.

He was ousted last year in circumstances his supporters say amounted to a coup.

The United States, Britain, the European Union and India, had urged the Maldives to hold a credible and inclusive election.

But uncertainty still remains over how the candidates will react after the results, amid a lingering conflict between the parliament and the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is generally seen as sympathetic to the those loyal to Mr Gayoom, while parliament is dominated by Mr Nasheed's supporters.

Mr Nasheed's rivals have not ruled out using the courts if they do not think the vote is fair.