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Fiji polls: Ruling party, Oppn in a close fight

Labour ally, the United People's Party, had taken one seat in this racially divided South Pacific nation's general election.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 12:26 IST

Fiji's ruling nationalist party and the main Opposition, ethnic Indian-supported Fiji Labour Party were neck-and-neck early on Tuesday as general election vote counting continued for a second day.

With results declared for 30 seats in the 71-member parliament, caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's ruling Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party had 14 seats and the main opposition Labour Party 13 seats.

Labour ally, the United People's Party, had taken one seat in this racially divided South Pacific nation's general election.

The Party of National Unity, PANU, and an independent candidate had won the two other seats declared.

Supervisor of elections, Semesa Karavaki, said he was confident all results would be declared by Tuesday evening. A new government in Fiji could be formed by the weekend.

Qarase, fighting for a second consecutive five-year term, held his own seat in his remote Lau island constituency with a massive 93 per cent majority of the votes cast.

The election pitted Qarase -- an indigenous Fijian incumbent who is struggling for power with the country's military chief -- against ethnic Indian opposition leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

Observers fear victory by either could trigger the nation's fourth race-related coup in a decade with police and the army closely monitoring the results this week.

Chaudhry's victory in the islands nation's 1999 general election sparked an armed coup by indigenous Fijians in May 2000 that toppled him from power.