Record Turnout Tipped In Poll Day 3 Success
By ANDREA WAQA and ATERINA SAMASONI: August 29, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP)
SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Despite some cases of voter impersonation and missing names on the electoral rolls continuing to frustrate some voters, day three of polling in Fiji's general election has been deemed a success.
About 165,000 people, or 36 percent of the total roll, have cast their choices so far, say officials.
The Supervisor of Elections, Walter Rigamoto, says that at this rate, this election will see a record turnout by the time polls close on Saturday afternoon.
All races are participating enthusiastically, but the highest turnout has been from the Indo-Fijian community, according to Rigamoto.
There were two cases of voter impersonation reported on day three, which Rigamoto said was comparable to previous elections held in Fiji. Police are investigating.
On the continuing problem of voters not finding their names on the rolls at their respective polling stations, Rigamoto said that given the size of the roll, it was a comparatively small number, although he did not provide any figures.
"However that does not mean that we are not concerned," he said. According to law, people whose names are not on the electoral roll cannot vote.
While Rigamoto deemed it as a minor problem, some party officials were furious at having to spend time verifying that their voters had already registered.
So far, the Western Division has recorded the highest number of votes cast, totalling 71,750, followed by the Central division at 66,800, the Northern division with 14,900 votes and the East 12,000.
Turnout has been higher in the west, mainly the Lautoka area. Some voters still seem confused with the preferential voting system, with a group at Narere Primary School saying they had ticked below the line next to the candidate and party's name because there were no names of candidates above the line. This has invalidated their votes.
Officials are expecting the pace to pick up from tomorrow.
"The trend of the elections seems to be that the voters turn up during the first and then last days," Rigamoto said. On whether voting hours will be extended, Rigamoto said this will be up to the presiding officer.
In all, 157 polling stations have been set up in the four divisions to cater for close to 500,000 eligible voters.
Meanwhile, security remains tight throughout Fiji, with 400 policemen monitoring the situation constantly. But despite assurances from police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Romano Tikotikoca said that security forces were on full alert and fully prepared to contain any trouble.
The New Zealand government has moved to issue a fresh travel advisory on Fiji, warning its citizens to be alert and cautious about the Fiji situation.
Some of the concerns are apparently linked to a leaflet threatening bloodshed if the Labour Party is voted back in. Police are yet to apprehend those responsible.