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Fiji's indigenous PM declares victory in elections

Written by: Staff
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Suva, May 17 : Fiji's indigenous prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, claimed victory today in the South Pacific nation's general elections after a racially-charged campaign aimed at stopping ethnic Indians gaining power.

''We will have a working majority and that's good enough,'' Qarase told local radio as votes were counted for the final parliament seats.

''I would like to acknowledge the hand of God for the victory. I believe God has a plan for Fiji and the SDL is part of that plan for Fiji,'' he said.

Qarase's ruling indigenous Fijian party (SDL) won 32 of the 71 seats in parliament, with a further two seats going to independents linked to the SDL.

There are 10 seats still to be declared and Qarase's SDL is expected to win a further two more seats in electorates dominated by indigenous voters.

Local radio projected the SDL would control 37-38 seats.

The party of opposition leader Mahendra Chaudhry, an ethnic Indian Fijian who was toppled as prime minister in a 2000 coup, had taken 27 seats. His Fiji Labour Party is expected to win 33 or 34 seats.

Fiji has been rocked by three racially motivated coups and an army mutiny since 1987.

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

Reuters

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