11 Mar 2004

Fiji political parties gearing up for 2006 elections

10:26 am on 11 March 2004

Fiji's political parties are reported to be preparing for the next general election which is still two years away.

Radio Fiji reports that the ruling SDL has confirmed its preparations for the 2006 general election and has set up divisional offices and coordinators.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has called on indigenous Fijians to unite if they want to retain leadership of the country.

Mr Qarase says indigenous political parties lost heavily in the 25 open seats in 2001 because of divisions.

He wants to hold a meeting with other indigenous parties to discuss ways of uniting under one banner.

The SVT Party leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, the Fiji Democratic Party leader, Filipe Bole, and the pro-coup Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua have all backed unity among indigenous Fijians.

The Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says his party has already prepared its manifesto and all existing MPs would contest their seats, unless some decide to retire.

The National Federation Party, which has about 33 per cent support among ethnic Indians but no seats in parliament, expects to do better in 2006.