Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has held on to power in a general election, with his party winning a narrow majority. The Pacific nation this week went to the polls for only the second time since Bainimarama seized control in a military coup in 2006. A final count on Sunday put his FijiFirst party on 50.02% of the total vote, with the Social Democratic Liberal party, led by former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, second on 39.85%. The National Federation party received 7.38%. The outcome is expected to give FijiFirst a narrow but outright majority in the country’s 51-seat parliament and Bainimarama a second term but is significantly tighter than the last election in 2014 when the party won almost 60%. Opposition members are considering challenging the result, local media have reported. While an interim Multinational Observer Group report has called the election process credible, a row broke out between opposition parties and electoral authorities over the weekend about the release of results, which have trickled in since the vote on Wednesday.
The Fijian Elections Office has strongly denied the claims of impropriety and rejected a call to halt counting after complaints by four party leaders they had been prevented from verifying results.
Separately, the observers noted government ministers had handed out government grants during campaigning.
“I’m proud to become your prime minister once again,” Bainimarama told FBC News from New Zealand where he was attending his brother’s funeral.
With a national history of military coups and two former military strongmen running – Rabuka himself led two coups in 1987 – police earlier talked down concerns about tension after the vote. The military – which holds significant power in the country’s constitution and has given Bainimarama its backing – said during the run-up that it would respect the vote.