MODERATE PARTIES FAIL TO WIN SUPPORT OF FIJI VOTERS

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Staff Reporters: September 5, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP)

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 5, 2001 -- Wansolwara Online/Pasifik Nius)---Moderate parties failed to win support today in the Fiji general election as hopes of political parties working towards multiracial solutions faded.

Constitutional lawyer Richard Naidu expressed disappointment that parties with moderate values had failed to win seats as counting progressed slowly at the country's four tallying centers.

"Parties which were bold and wanted to advance multiracialism are the ones that have lost out," Naidu said on Fiji Television.

"People like Filipe Bole of the SVT, Tupeni Baba of the NLUP and Adi Kuini Speed of the FAP won't get a chance to be in government."

The comments followed news that Adi Kuini had failed to secure her Nadroga/Navosa Open seat and the SVT -- the party founded by former prime minister and coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka -- not winning a single seat after the third day of counting.

With 49 seats declared, the Fiji electorate has polarized around two main parties seen as protecting communal interests. Both were predicting they would form the new government.

[See: Elections 2001: Fiji Islands for updated tally of seats won.]

The Fiji Labour Party (FLP) has won 24 seats so far. Although it has a multiracial platform and has significant Fijian support, it is seen as Indian-supported.

Former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who was deposed at gunpoint in the attempted coup last year, claimed a massive swing to Labour of up to 25 percent in some seats.

The new Fijian party founded by caretaker Laisenia Qarase, Soqosoqo Dauvata ni Lewenivanua (SDL), was equally confident.

It has won 17 seats, but Chaudhry claimed it had won many of the seats "on the backs of preferences" from smaller Fijian parties.

"I think we have the numbers," Chaudhry said, saying that he would be prepared to invite SDL under the power-sharing provision of the constitution.

He also confirmed that he was prepared to be prime minister again.

"No, I'm not prepared to work with Chaudhry," said Qarase.

"Either he forms the government, or I form the government."

The Conservative Alliance/Matanitu Vanua has won six seats, including the Tailevu North Fijian communal captured by coup leader George Speight, who is detained on Nukulau Island accused of treason.

Ironically, as Speight appeared at the Suva Magistrates Courts to answer lesser charges related to the coup, his seat was being counted -- under the name of Ilikini Naitaini -- at the Suva Grammar counting center.

One of Speight's accomplices in Nukulau detention, Ratu Timoci Silatolu, lost the Rewa Fijian communal seat to Ro Teimumu Kepa of the SDL.

Ratu Timoci was one of seven chiefs who lost their seats. The FAP's leader Adi Kuini polled 2,911 votes in her shock loss.

She was defeated by SDL candidate Pio Wong, a former colonel who was implicated in the 1987 military coups. He polled 7,291 votes.

The loss is a major setback for the wheelchair-bound Adi Kuini, who is a high chief of Navosa. But speaking through her husband, Clive Speed, she said she would not quit politics.

"She is naturally disappointed at her loss but she will continue to lead her party," said Speed. Adi Kuini was known for her strong moderate views and as an ally of former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

Counting for Filipe Bole's Suva City Urban communal and New Labour Unity leader Dr. Tupeni Baba's Samabula/Tamavua open seats was expected to start later tonight at the Suva Grammar counting center.

New Labour gained one success today with bank manager Kenneth Zinck winning Suva City general communal seat.

Both the FLP and the SDL are expected to increase their seat count overnight with a number of Open seats to be decided.

Lawyer Richard Naidu believes the huge support for the Fiji Labour Party was expected.

"At any time you have a crisis or a confrontation people will immediately retreat to the party they see as serving their own communal interests," said Naidu.

"People have voted for the Labour Party because they believe that the Labour Party will most clearly protect Indian interests.

"On the indigenous Fijian side people are most simply retreating to the party which has most clearly stated that they will preserve Fijian interests," he said.

Title -- 3397 POLITICS: Moderate parties fail to win support of Fiji voters Date -- 5 September 2001 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wansolwara Online, 5/9/1 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status – Unabridged

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