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Few Hitches On Opening Day Of Fiji's Election
By KRIS LEUA: August 26, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP)
SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Colo-I-Suva, a polling station on the northern outskirts of Suva didn't experience many problems on
the first day of Fiji's general election yesterday - even without the use of computers by polling officials to check
Almost 470,000 voters are going to the polls in the week-long election. Voting is compulsory in Fiji.
Checking and verifying voters' registration is done manually. Confirmations are done by reading out aloud the name of
each of the voters. But this doesn't make the queue of voters longer.
Voters standing in the queue at Colo-I-Suva numbered no more that 50 people throughout the morning. This dropped to 20
by early afternoon.
A Fijian voter said the polling yesterday was different from the 1999 election.
"In the last election, we had about 200 people standing at the queue waiting for four hours before they cast their vote.
Today it was different. I cast my vote in less that one and half hours. This is satisfactory enough."
Voters came to the polling station well-prepared for the long queues. They brought their umbrellas, books and newspapers
- and even their lunches and chairs.
Many voters brought along their children. Children played on the playground and on the lawns of the polling station
while waiting for their parents to cast their votes.
A 32-year-old Indian father said: "I decided to bring along our two children because I knew it wouldn't take a long time
to cast my ballot paper at this polling station.
"Also because there is only a small number of Indian registered voters voting around this place."
He was the only ethnic Indian seen casting his vote with his wife for the Indian Communal in the span of six hours.
There were only two people, a 60-year-old woman and her mother, seen casting their vote for the General communal seat in
the same period. It took them 15 minutes to cast their ballot papers.
Members of the international observer corps briefly visited the polling station late in the morning. They said that the
voting process was "so far so good."
Voter turnout was satisfactory, according to polling officials. They estimated that all voters would finish casting
their vote before week-long polling ends.
Under the alternative (preferential) voting system, voters cast two votes, one for a Fijian, Indian, Rotuman or General
(other races) communal, and one for an Open (all races) seat at each polling station.
Electoral Office officials said they they were happy with progress on the opening day.
They also warned that they would prosecute anybody who does not cast a vote, compulsory under the Electoral Act.
Deputy Supervisor of Elections Kameli Koto said citizens who failed to cast a vote in the 1999 general election were not
penalised because it was the first time that voting had been made compulsory."
Voting continues tomorrow and ends next Saturday.
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