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Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed who was the front-runner at Saturday's run-off elections appeared set for a shock defeat, initial results showed.
Nasheed secured 48.3 percent of the vote with his main challenger, Abdulla Yameen, leading with 51.6 percent with only about a tenth of the ballots left to be counted.
Maldives came under intense international criticism after several attempts at elections were scuttled by the country's controversial Supreme Court raising concerns that the moves were to prevent Nasheed, 46, return to power.
Yameen, 54, is a half brother of former Maldivian president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and is a senior member of Gayoom's Progressive Party of Maldives.
The US and the European Union had warned the Maldives to hold the second round election Saturday and elect a new leader to avoid a constitutional void in the new democracy.
After the results of one election were annulled and two other polls were cancelled by the courts, foreign diplomats have increasingly viewed delays as politically motivated.
Nasheed, a former pro-democracy campaigner who won the first free polls in 2008, was seen the frontrunner 21 months after he resigned under pressure from demonstrations and mutinous police officers.
However, his main opponents united after his first round victory last week and mounted a formidable challenge.