February 5, 2023

The People’s Alliance and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party now lead head-to-head in the polls, both at 38 percent with more than a quarter of polling stations counted.

The People’s Alliance vote fell steadily from over 50 per cent in each tally update throughout Friday, with FijiFirst making up ground from 22 per cent.

The National Federation Party has seven percent of the vote, while the Liberal Social Democratic Party has six.

The other five political parties remain below the five percent of the vote threshold required to qualify for a seat in the enlarged 55-member parliament.

Bainimarama, who rose to power after instigating a coup in 2006, has a 26 percent personal vote in Fiji’s single constituency, while Rabuka has 14 percent.

The final tally is scheduled for Sunday.

Despite leading in the polls ahead of the final update on Friday, Rabuka doubled down on allegations of voting data irregularities and asked the Fijian public to register their concerns about electoral integrity.

Rabuka also wanted the military to use its powers under the constitution to oversee a vote count right after alleging voting irregularities.

He said it would not be a coup because the army would not be running the government.

Major General Jone Kalouniwai refused to get involved, saying using the military in the electoral process would be unconstitutional, and kept faith in the system.

“I wish to assure the people of Fiji that the RFMF (Republic of Fiji Military Forces) will not respond to the insistence of Rabuka or any political party,” Major General Kalouniwai told Radio NZ.

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Opposition parties raised concerns about the preliminary count after the results were drastically changed when the election app went offline due to a glitch.

Charging

People’s Alliance had been ahead of FijiFirst, but this changed when the app came back online after several hours on Wednesday, election night.

Elections supervisor Mohammed Saneem said the votes did not match the candidates when they were uploaded to the results app, causing some candidates to display unusually high numbers.

But Saneem said there was no problem with the database as the ballots are manually counted and verified.

He said that while the app was down, a sizeable number of polling stations reported their results, which is what updated the overall count.

Rabuka and three other opposition party leaders say they cannot trust the information posted on the app and questioned the integrity of the data transfer from the manual count to its online posting.

All refused to express faith in the Fiji Electoral Office.

The Multinational Observer Group says it has not observed “any irregularities or significant problems during pre-voting, voting by mail or voting on Election Day.”

Australian MP and co-chair Rebekha Sharkie said the speed of vote counting had slowed after additional safeguards were put in place after the glitch.

He expressed confidence in the vote counting process when asked if there was any evidence to corroborate the opposition’s claims.

The organization’s interim report noted that the app is not used to count votes, but only to post results.

AAP

This article was made possible by the Michael Gordon Journalism Fellowships program of the Melbourne Press Club.

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