SUVA, Fiji — Coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama was poised on Thursday to become Fiji's first elected leader in eight years as provisional results gave him a commanding lead after historic elections.
But despite the country returning to democracy, the military maintain a strong presence and opposition parties cancelled an election review planned during the day after soldiers turned up.
With 70 per cent of the vote counted following Wednesday's poll, Bainimarama's Fiji First Party had 60.1 per cent, well clear of its nearest rival, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) on 26.7.
Bainimarama had repeatedly delayed a return to democracy while he reworked Fiji's constitution, developed the economy and, as an indigenous Fijian he made himself popular with the Indian minority by focussing on easing ethnic tensions.
Sodelpa and other opposition parties were to have met on Thursday at a Suva hotel to discuss their response to Fiji First's overwhelming lead.
However, the meeting was cancelled at the last minute when soldiers arrived at the venue.
"This meeting cannot go ahead because there are two military personnel in the hotel," prominent Fiji political analyst Wadan Narsey told reporters.
– Military on standby –
Fiji's military commander Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga said before the election the armed forces would be on standby until a new government is sworn in to ensure "the security, defence and well-being" of the Pacific island nation.
There has been no word from Bainimarama since voting began and the Fiji Sun, regarded as a mouthpiece of the outgoing military regime, said he was "happy with the general elections results coming in.
But he was waiting for the final results before commenting further." Complete results are not expected until the weekend, but the early results indicated Bainimarama's Fiji First would easily rule without the need of coalition support.
About half a million of Fiji's 900,000 population were registered to vote in the first election since he led a bloodless coup in 2006, the fourth time the Fijian government had been overthrown in less than 20 years.— AFP