The Maldives Elections Commission late on Friday postponed the second round of voting for the presidential election, setting the stage for potentially politically turbulent times in the Indian Ocean group of islands.

The commission made the announcement after having a last minute meeting to decide whether they could go ahead with the election which was scheduled to be held on Saturday, a news agency reported.

The Maldives Supreme Court on Monday indefinitely postponed the second round runoff sparking protests across the capital city of Male.

The date for the runoff would be announced later, the commission added in a press notice.

The announcement said that it was the commission's legal obligation to ensure peaceful elections where the people can exercise their right to vote without violence or unrest.

As protests erupted across Male, tourism has taken a hit with arrivals preferring to avoid the capital Male.

Police and army were trying to shield the tourists from the protests.

"We have not observed a reduction in tourism numbers this month," Capital Travel owner Mohommad Riffath told a news agency but admitted that a prolonged strike would have serious repercussions.

Earlier, two resort workers organizations had threatened to go on strike if voting did not take place on Saturday.

The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) threatened a "prolonged" strike at resorts across the Maldives if the second round of the presidential election was delayed.

Tourism, Maldives main industry, accounts for 70 percent of the country's economy.

In a statement, TEAM, an industry body representing around 5,000 workers across the country's luxury resorts -- said the Supreme Court order issued Monday delaying the run-off vote "destroys the principles of democracy we have embraced and voids articles of the constitution".

The statement added that it would not hesitate to go on a prolonged strike to strengthen democracy and uphold human rights.

TEAM's statement came a day after the resort industry body, the Maldives Association for Tourism Industries, issued a statement warning of "irreparable consequences" to the Maldivian economy unless the run-off was expedited.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb had said that he would not allow the tourism industry to suffer because of politics.

"We cannot allow any politician to involve the tourism industry in politics. We cannot allow politicians to sacrifice the tourism industry and its workers every time things are politically turbulent," he told local media outlet Haveeru.

Earlier this week, ousted president Mohamed Nasheed also asked resort workers to go on strike to pressurise the Supreme Court into holding elections on September 28.

(Agencies)

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