QARASE CLOSE TO VICTORY IN FIJI ELECTION

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 17) – Fiji's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua(SDL), led by Laisenia Qarase, is likely to be returned to power with at least 36 seats even as a number of seats remain to be counted.

The SDL has won all 23 Fijian Communal seats plus nine Open seats, with the Suva City Open being the latest seat to be won. The Suva seat was one the SDL had not been banking on winning.

That gives it 32 seats plus the seat of Robin Irwin, the winner of the Northern General seat who has told Qarase he will only join a SDL coalition, and the Rotuma Communal seat winner, former Fiji Ambassador to Australia, Jioji Konrote, who has also said he will join the SDL coalition.

As long as the SDL wins its stronghold seats of Cunningham (candidate Rajesh Singh) with a Fijian voter base of 57.22 per cent and Laucala Open with a Fijian voter base of 48.86 per cent (plus the favorable preferences to sitting candidate Losena Salabula), they would get 11 Open seats - as much as they won last time - for a total of 36 seats, a majority of one in the 71-member House of Representatives.

The other seat where the SDL stands a strong chance is the Serua/Navosa Open where there is a high percentage of Fijian voters (67 per cent) although the preferences don't favor the party's candidate Jone Navakamocea.

Independent Pio Wong is a strong candidate here and shares preferences with the Fiji Labor Party (FLP).

Whether the SDL's majority increases or remains a slim one depends very much on whether the Fiji Labor Party can win the Nasinu/Rewa and Samabula/Tamavua Open seats and win any of the Cunningham, Laucala or Serua/Navosa Open seats.

The Labor Party, which currently has 25 seats, will also pick up the Lautoka City Indian Communal and is likely to pick up the Nausori/Naitasiri Open, Magodro Open, Lautoka City Open and Nadi Open seats.

This gives the Labor Party 30 seats plus the possibility of picking up the Nasinu/Rewa and Samabula/Tamavua Open seats.

ese seats, the Labor Party-led New People's Coalition will have 32 seats plus two from its coalition partner, the United People's Party - that of leader Mick Beddoes and Suva Central candidate Bernadette Ganilau.

Based on this, the Labor Party has to upset the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua in either the Cunningham or Laucala Open seats and win the Serua/Navosa seat to have any chance of winning the general election.

May 17, 2006

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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