By Dolores Prasad

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 7, 2001 – The Sun)---The Fiji Labour Party has joined the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei in accusing the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party of rigging the result of the General Election.

Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry said the party was waiting for the official results to be announced before pursuing legal action.

He even hinted at the possibility of fresh elections depending on the outcome of the court action.

The SUN reported yesterday of strong protests by the SVT that the SDL had won the election by rigging the result.

Its leader, Filipe Bole, has already written to the Supervisor of Elections to formally ask for an investigation.

Speaking at a news conference in Suva today, Mr. Chaudhry cited "irregularities" in the poll which he said smack of vote rigging.

"The long delays in beginning the count particularly in the Central Division, the bringing in of unverified postal ballots part way into the count, the extremely high number of invalid votes and the uniformity of ticks on ballot papers have raised doubt about the conduct of the election and the neutrality of electoral officials and clerks," he said.

He said the Supervisor of Elections, Walter Rigamoto, had already been notified of their concerns that included excessive invalid votes.

"One would expect less invalid votes this election compared to the 1999 election as voters are more aware of the procedure now. This is not the case.

In my own constituency -- Ba Open -- there were 1,087 invalid votes in 1999. This time the figure has risen to a massive 2,713 of which more than 2,000 were mine," Mr. Chaudhry said.

He added that a study of invalid votes revealed a clear pattern where they were very high in constituencies where a certain party was uncertain of winning.

"The strategy was to invalidate FLP votes by placing a tick below the line in ballot papers of illiterate voters seeking assistance from polling clerks to vote," Mr. Chaudhry said.

"These elections have not been free and fair. The Fiji Labour Party calls on the Commonwealth and the United Nations Observer missions to withhold certifying the 2001 General Election free and fair until questions raised have been thoroughly investigated and explained," he added.

For additional reports from the Fiji Sun, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Sun.

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