16 May 2006

Neck and neck for major parties after 32 seats declared in Fiji election

3:40 pm on 16 May 2006

With vote counting in the Fiji general elections well into its second day, 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 the fifth count of preferences.

Mr Urwin has told Fiji TV that he will support Laisenia Qarase's SDL party.

The election result so far is SDL 16 seats, Labour 14 seats, its coalition partner the United People's Party 1 seat and Mr Irwin is the one independent.

With both major parties running neck and neck in the election results so far, whoever wins will need to follow the constitutional requirement to form a multi-party cabinet.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says if his SDL party wins, he would be prepared to form a multi-party cabinet after the elections.

Walter Zweifel in Suva has more on results so far..

"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."