16 May 2006

Tight contest emerging as about a third of Fiji election results released

1:34 pm on 16 May 2006

Vote counting in Fiji is in full swing following last week's polling to choose a new 71-member parliament.

So far, about a third of all seats have been declared.

The SDL of Laisenia Qarase and the Fiji Labour Party of Mahendra Chaudhry are in a tight contest.

Counting is in its second day and results so far show a two-horse race between the SDL and Labour which have swept the Fijian and Indian seats respectively.

A number of ministers from Mr Qarase's government have retained their seat, including Simione Kaitani and Yonisi Yabaki.

Also elected has been Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu who led the pro-coup Conservative Alliance before it merged with Mr Qarase's SDL three months ago.

And, one of its members, George Speight's brother, Samisoni Tikonisau, is also back.

Prominent independents to miss out include the former labour minister, Kenneth Zinck, and Jim Ah Koy, who is the finance minister in the Rabuka government of the 1990's.

The first woman to be chosen is Bernadette Rounds Ganilau of the United People's Party.

Attention is focused on the non-racial or so-called open seats, particularly in the Suva area, as they will determine this election.

And, party supporters are in their respective camps outside the counting centre, awaiting the final result which may be declared tonight.

Meanwhile the first independent candidate has won a seat.

He is Robin Irwin, a Savusavu resident who has won the North Eastern General Communal seat after a count of preferences.

Mr Irwin has told Fiji TV that he will support Laisenia Qarase's SDL Party.