4 Dec 2003

Fiji by-election campaign in high gear

7:18 am on 4 December 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, are locked in a campaign in Vanua Levu to win Saturday's by-election for the Labasa Rural Indian seat.

The seat became vacant when Labour MP, Lateef Subedar, died in July.

His brother, Tazil Subedar, is standing as an independent after failing to get Labour endorsement which he claims he was promised.

The National Federation Party has put up Labasa mayor Charan Jeath Singh.

The secretary of the Justice and Freedom Movement, Dildar Shah, who has been leading a campaign for compensation from Australia and Britain for ill-treatment of the early Indian indentured labourers, is also hoping for a win to press his claim.

Under Fiji's preferential voting system, the Labour Party has been given the last preference by all the other parties and candidates.

This means that unless Labour has an outright win in the counting of the first preferences, it will not be able to retain the seat.