Suva/Cairns (Australia) (IANS): Leader of the coup in 2006, Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama, has won parliamentary elections in Fiji, home to a large Indian-origin population, amidst opposition accusations of electoral fraud, according to provisional results released Thursday.
The Fiji First Party of Bainimarama, who came to power in 2006 after a bloodless coup, received 60 percent of votes in the elections held Wednesday, Efe news agency reported.
His rival, Teimumu Kepa, leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party, received 26 percent of the votes, while the National Federation Party took five percent, according to the count of votes at 2,025 polling stations.
The electoral commission is scheduled to recount the votes and announce the final results later Thursday.
Mahendra Chaudhry, the Indo-Fijian community-dominated Fiji Labour Party leader, came in fifth with two percent.
He claimed that Bainimarama’s party bought votes and that there were irregularities during the voting process, the New Zealand television channel TVNZ reported.
International election observers will announce their conclusions later Thursday, although they said Wednesday that they had not observed any irregularities.
A total of 249 candidates, including 44 women, were nominated to contest the 50 seats of the single-house parliament, constituted according to the new constitution approved last year by the authorities.
Nearly 600,000 voters registered for the election, which was held Wednesday. The turnout was high.
According to an earlier Xinhua report Thursday, the Social Democratic Liberal Party, National Federation Party, People’s Democratic Party, the Fiji Labour Party, One Fiji Party, and the Fiji United Freedom Party, in a joint statement, charged that the elections were not free and fair.
The six parties claimed that, according to their polling agents, a number of ballot papers were removed from polling stations without being counted.
The parties said they have notified the country’s Electoral Commission about their concerns.
Politics in Fiji, the economy of which largely depends on sugar exports, tourism and remittances from emigrants, has been marked by rivalry between the Fijian ethnic majority group and the Indian-origin minority, the Efe report said.
The Fijian Melanesians, officially known as “iTaukei” and owners of most of the land, represent 57 percent of the population, while people of Indian origin, who dominate the business sector, account for 37 percent of the 900,000 inhabitants of the archipelago. Most of the ethnic Indians are descendants of indentured labourers who were brought from India between 1879 and 1916 to work in the country’s sugarcane plantations.
Elections are a necessary step for thawing Fiji’s diplomatic relations with Australia, the European Union and the Commonwealth of Nations which suffered because of the coup.
for latest results.
UPDATES WILL FOLLOW