FIJI ELECTION OFFICIALS VERIFY POSTAL BALLOTS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 3, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Election officials in Fiji are preparing for today's official start of counting in the country's national election.

The officials spent yesterday verifying postal ballots.

In a first for Fiji, electoral officials have had more than a day to make sure that all the sealed ballot boxes are transported to the four designated counting centers, prior to any of them being opened and the count beginning.

The 5,187 boxes are now under police guard.

Meanwhile, Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports, according to police, that the behavior of the citizenry during the voting period has been generally good.

"Fiji's Director of Community Policing, Romanu Tikotikoca, says that during the week-long voting period the police had only 15 reports of possible criminal behavior linked to the balloting.

"Five of those were cases of impersonation -- people voting in another person's name, or trying to.

"He says that overall the behavior of the public was better at this election than during the last one in 1999.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia, Suva."

 

FIJI PREPARES FOR COUNT IN NATIONAL ELECTION

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 2, 2001 – Radio Australia)---As Fiji prepares for the count in the country's national election, Fiji police have discounted suggestions that the deposed Prime Minister, Indo-Fijian Mahendra Chaudhry, might be in danger if he wins again.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that after voting ended Saturday night electoral officials began transporting the final ballot boxes to four centralized counting stations, where they'll begin counting Monday.

"Four-hundred police will be providing security at the counting stations with more than 200 guarding the largest venue -- Suva Grammar School.

"Fiji's Director of Community Policing, Ramanu Tikotikoca, was asked if the police were taking any special precautions to guard Mahendra Chaudhry from possible assassination.

"He said, ‘We are better prepared this time, whereas last year it started off with a march and we are very much outnumbered by the people who came on the streets. This time around we are working in close liaison and coordination with the military. Our preparations can handle anything that comes across our way, unlike the last time.’

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia, Suva."

 

LOWER THAN EXPECTED TURNOUT IN FIJI'S ELECTION

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 2, 2001 – Radio Australia)---There appears to have been a lower than expected turnout in Fiji's national election, with about one in six registered voters failing to cast a ballot.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports.

"Fiji's Supervisor of Elections, Walter Rigamoto, had forecast earlier in the week that there could be a better than 90 percent voter turnout. But speaking to the media shortly before the close of the polls he gave a significantly lower final estimate. ‘With the trend that we are on it will be maybe 83 percent.’

"He could offer no explanation even though voting is compulsory.

"He said he didn't have enough information yet to say whether the turnout was lower in either the Indo-Fijian or indigenous communities.

"Sean Dorney, Radio Australia, Suva."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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