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Last Updated: Monday, 15 May 2006, 05:52 GMT 06:52 UK
Counting begins in Fiji election
Policeman inspects ballot boxes in Suva, Fiji
Ballot boxes have been coming in from across the country
Counting has begun after Fiji's general election, with Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase confident of a majority.

Ballot boxes have been arriving at four central counting stations from electorates across the South Pacific.

According to elections supervisor Semesa Karavaki, a final count could be available by late Tuesday.

The poll has been held in a racially charged atmosphere, with indigenous Fijians worried that the country's ethnic Indians might seize control.

Mr Qarase, an indigenous Fijian, is running against ethnic Indian opposition leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

Observers fear that whatever the result of the poll, the outcome could trigger violence. Police and soldiers are closely monitoring the situation.

Pre-election pledges

Polls finally closed on Saturday after the seven-day election.

Collecting ballots is a complicated business in Fiji, which has 300 far-flung inhabited islands.

The government has reported a provisional turnout of about 300,000 people, or about 64%, of registered voters.

Mr Qarase said on Monday that he had not changed his polling forecast that his indigenous-dominated Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party would win 42 of the 71 seats in parliament.

Last week he pledged that if he won, he would form a government which included native and ethnic Indian Fijians.

"We will have probably the most multi-racial line-up on a government side in any general election since independence," he said.

But his rival, ethnic Indian Mr Chaudhry, insisted that "no one will take him seriously".

Ethnic tensions have dominated Fijian politics since 2000, when a coup deposed Mr Chaudhry, then serving as the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister.

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