International Observers Say Fiji Vote ‘Credible’

An international group of election monitors said Thursday that Fiji’s first election since its widely condemned 2006 coup was credible.

The Multinational Observer Group, which included monitors from 13 nations and the European Union, said the results of Wednesday’s vote will broadly reflect the will of Fijians.

With three-fifths of the ballots counted, provisional results show Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Fiji First party with more than 60 percent of the vote. The Sodelpa party is in second with 27 percent.

A free and fair vote could convince the international community to drop the remaining sanctions imposed on Fiji after Bainimarama, a former army leader, seized power in the coup eight years ago.

Bainimarama has ruled by decree for years. He is accused of overseeing strict media censorship and ensuring coup leaders are immune to prosecution.

Many say he is popular because of his emphasis on social programs and efforts to reduce tensions between Fiji’s indigenous people and ethnic Indians.

The observer group said Thursday that there were some scattered problems with voter registration and pre-polling. It also said civil society participation in the campaign process was restricted.

But the group also said the election was conducted in an atmosphere of calm without electoral misconduct or intimidation. It also saw no problems in the vote counting process.

Complete election results are not expected until Saturday.

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