The Maldives' top court has delayed holding the second round of the country's presidential poll.

Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader who first came to power in 2008 after 30 years of one-man rule, won the first round of voting yesterday but failed to win a clear majority.

The run-off was scheduled to take place today but the Supreme Court has delayed it until next week, in line with demands from Mr Nasheed's two biggest rivals.

This weekend's poll was the Maldives' third attempt to elect a new president in as many months, but the democratic process once again broke down amid bickering between political factions.

The delay makes it unclear who will actually be in charge of the country from tomorrow, when the incumbent steps down.

"To delay second-round voting beyond the constitutional requirements for a new government by 11 November will create uncertainties that may destabilise the Maldives," the US States Department said in a statement.

"It is unreasonable and unacceptable for parties to continue to demand changes to an agreed election date."

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.

Mr Nasheed, who was ousted from power last year incircumstances that his supporters say amounted to a coup, won 46.93% of the vote, the official results showed.

Mr Nasheed's main opponent is Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the islands for 30 years. Yameen won 29.72% of the vote, while resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, a finance minister under Mr Gayoom, secured 23.34%.