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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, May 15) – Vote counting in Fiji is in full swing following last week’s polling to choose a new 71-member parliament.

25 seats are open to all ethnic groups, while the other 46 are race-based.

With about a third of the seats declared, the SDL of caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has 10 seats and the Fiji Labour Party of Mahendra Chaudhry 10.

Counting has been going around the clock and results so far show a two-horse race between the SDL and Labour, which have swept the Fijian and Indian seats respectively.

Among recent ministers to retain their seats are Simione Kaitani, Mitieli Bulanauca and Yonisi Yabaki, all standing for the SDL.

Also elected has been Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu who led the pro-coup Conservative Alliance before it merged with Mr Qarase’s SDL three months ago.

George Speight’s brother, Samisoni Tikonisau, is also back.

Independents to miss out include the former labour minister, Kenneth Zinck, and Jim Ah Koy, who is a former finance minister.

The first woman to be chosen is Bernadette Rounds Ganilau of the United People’s Party who won the Suva General Voters seat.

Much attention is focused on the non-racial or so-called open seats, particularly in the Suva area, to the determine the final outcome which is not expected to be known until tonight.

May 16, 2006

Radio New Zealand International:

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