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Neck to neck race as counting continues in Fiji

Written by: Staff

Suva, May 16 : Fiji's indigenous government and ethnic Indian opposition were neck-and-neck in the race to win general elections today, with the government taking 20 seats and the opposition 19 in votes so far counted.

Both Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and opposition leader Mahendra Chaudhry say they are confident of winning a majority in the 71-seat parliament.

An election official said a result was expected tomorrow.

Fiji's week-long election, which ended on Saturday, has been conducted in a racially-charged climate, with indigenous Fijian Qarase saying the South Pacific island nation was not ready for an ethnic Indian-led government.

Indigenous Fijians make up 51 per cent of the 906,000 population and fear the economic clout of ethnic Indians, who dominate the economy, will be matched by political power.

Fiji has been rocked by three racially motivated coups and an army mutiny since 1987. Chaudhry, the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister who was ousted in a 2000 coup, has charged Qarase with stirring up racism in the former British colony.

Qarase was installed as interim leader when the military declared martial law in a bid to end the May 2000 coup which toppled Chaudhry's year-old government. He went on to win the 2001 election.


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