Asia-Pacific

Fiji PM Bainimarama on track for election victory

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Preliminary results have the incumbent with a narrow majority of 51.63 per cent in the general election with more than three quarters of the vote counted.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama appears set for a comfortable victory in the country’s general elections, only the second to be held since he took power in a military coup 12 years ago.

Preliminary results with almost three-quarters of votes counted show Mr Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party with a narrow majority of 51.63 per cent, well ahead of nearest rival the SODELPA Party - led by former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka - on 38.05 percent.

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Fiji election: Women's healthcare in the spotlight as vote count begins
Fiji election: Women's healthcare in the spotlight as vote count begins

The National Federation Party on 7.52 percent is the only other grouping on the ballot to reach the five percent threshold needed to gain representation in the 51-seat parliament. 

An election winner may not be known for several days as votes trickle in from polling stations on the archipelago's more remote islands.

Election officials also have to make alternative voting arrangements for constituents affected when torrential rain on Wednesday forced the closure of 23 polling stations.

Turnout was as low as 53 percent in some districts, with many voters deciding against braving the tropical downpours to cast their ballot.

Mr Bainimarama told SBS News on Wednesday he was “hoping to win the majority so [we] can form the next government again.”

The race between the two former coup leaders has been hotly contested with voters swayed on key issues including education funding and healthcare.

Sitiveni Rabuka’s SODELPA party has so far gained 37.87 per cent of the vote.
Sitiveni Rabuka’s SODELPA party has so far gained 37.87 per cent of the vote.
AAP

Mr Rabuka was only given the green light to run in the general election on Monday, after Fiji’s High Court cleared him of electoral fraud charges.

He told SBS News he believes the country would be better off under his leadership.

“I just want to tell them that we will live up to the words of our national anthem, land of freedom, hope and glory,” Mr Rabuka said.

“And it is our duty to give the people that.”

The University of the South Pacific’s, Dr Tui Rakuita told SBS News the court case against Mr Rabuka could have resulted in sympathy voters and undecided voters leaning towards SODELPA.

“That would cast a very interesting light on the elections,” he said.

Mr Bainimarama has led what’s been described as an “investor friendly” government, opening Fiji’s doors to China.

“That has ushered in a kind of stability that investors have always been looking for,” Mr Rakuita told SBS News.

“SODELPA is an unknown quantity in terms of governing the nation, so I think investors might hold back for a while is a new government comes in.”

Additional reporting by AFP.

A woman casts her vote in the general election in Suva.
A woman casts her vote in the general election in Suva.
Getty Images

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