Fijians are voting Wednesday in the country’s first election since a 2006 military coup that brought former army chief Voreqe Bainimarama to power.
Voters formed long lines Wednesday outside polling stations across the South Pacific island chain nation, which has a population of 900,000.
Many voters said they are happy to be able to vote in an election, which the government says will help restore democracy to Fiji.
“We’re very excited. Obviously, it’s been a long time coming for us to cast our vote and just have a say on the future of Fiji. So yeah, we’re very excited about it,” said one Fijian.
Prime Minister Bainimarama is confident in a victory for his Fiji First Party, which is easily expected to win the most seats in the 50-seat parliament.
Troops are standing by in case of unrest. Military commander Mosese Tikoitoga has warned against those trying to create “an atmosphere of intimidation.”
Bainimarama has ruled by decree for years. He is accused of overseeing strict media censorship and ensuring coup leaders are immune to prosecution.
Since seizing power in 2006, Bainimarama has also enacted a new constitution and tried to lessen tensions between the indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians.
As of midday Wednesday, no violence was reported and polling stations appeared to be operating smoothly. Initial voting results are expected early Thursday.