Sydney, Australia, Dec 14 (EFE).- The elections to decide 55 members of Parliament in Fiji, one of the most important island nations in the Pacific, concluded Wednesday with a low voter turnout, according to preliminary official data.
The country’s election supervisor Mohammed Saneem, at a press conference in Suva, announced the end of the polling session for the 2022 General Elections.
He added that the authorities had begun the manual counting of votes in the presence of observers, among them 90 foreigners, and provisional results would be declared soon.
At an earlier press conference broadcast by state-owned Fijian Broadcasting Corporation, Saneem revealed that only about 311,000 Fijians had voted until two hours before the closing of polling booths.
This number represents only around 51 percent of the 606,000 residents who were eligible to vote, compared to the more than 72 percent that exercised their right to franchise in 2018.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who came to power through a military coup in 2006, and later won the elections in 2014 and 2018, is once again contesting the elections as the head of the FijiFirst party.
Bainamarama has stood out for trying to maintain a balance between the US and Chinese influence in the region, and for his campaign to the UN urging more support for Pacific nations against the climatic crisis.
His main challenges have been high inflation and decline in tourism as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as ethnic rivalries in the country.
Others contesting for the top post include former prime minister and 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA); Biman Prasad of the National Federation Party, and Mahendra Pal Chaudhry of the Fiji Labour Party.
In 2018, Fiji First won 27 of the 51 seats, while SODELPA secured 21 and Biman Prasad’s party got with 3 seats.
Last year, the Electoral Commission approved increasing the number of seats in the Parliament from 51 to 55.
Fiji, with a population of more that 900,000, adopted a new constitution in 2013, which was done without public consultation.
The country faces huge tensions between the Melanesian community and Indo-Fijians following its independence from the United Kingdom in 1970. EFE