Suva: The first democratic election in eight years in Fiji was Thursday hailed by a multinational observer group as "credible" and representing the will of Fijians.
Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized control of the Pacific island nation in a bloodless coup in 2006 was heading for a landslide victory with provisional results giving his Fiji First Party more than 60 percent of the vote.
"This was a credible election," said a statement from the 92-member panel drawn from 13 countries around the world as well as the European Union.
"While counting is ongoing and the results are yet to be finalised, we assess that the outcome is on track to broadly represent the will of the Fijian voters."
The completed result from the election may not be known until Saturday.
The observer group, jointly chaired by Australia, Indonesia and India, said that while there were some problems with voter registration and pre-polling it did not see any significant irregularities in the vote counting process.
"Political parties were able to mobilise and candidates were free to campaign. The campaign period was peaceful. However, civil society participation in the process was restricted," it said.
More than 500,000 people were registered to vote in the election which for the first time extended full voting rights to Indian Fijians, who make up 40 percent of the 900,000 population.
The vote is considered pivotal to ending the country`s "coup culture", which saw four governments toppled between 1987 and 2006, largely due to tensions between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians.
The observer group said the election was conducted "in an atmosphere of calm, with an absence of electoral misconduct or evident intimidation."