Voreqe Bainimarama sworn in as Fiji`s PM

Coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama was sworn in as Fiji`s new prime minister on Monday, five days after the South Pacific nation held its first general election since 2006.

AFP| Last Updated: Sep 22, 2014, 13:00 PM IST

Suyva: Coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama was sworn in as Fiji`s new prime minister on Monday, five days after the South Pacific nation held its first general election since 2006.

With official results confirming Bainimarama had swept the election with almost 60 percent of the vote, he was sworn in by President Epeli Nailatikau at a brief ceremony in Suva`s Government House.

"I solemnly and sincerely promise to hold my office with honour, dignity and integrity," the 60-year-old pledged, eight years after he toppled Fiji`s last democratically elected leader Laisenia Qarase in a bloodless coup.

The final count in the election gave Bainimarama`s Fiji First Party 59.2 percent of the vote, equating to 32 seats in the new 50-seat parliament set up under a constitution introduced last year.

The Social Democratic Liberal Party was a distant second at 28.2 percent (15 seats), with the National Federation Party next on 5.5 (three seats).

The election extended full voting rights for the first time to ethnic Indians, who make up about 40 percent of the 900,000 population and enthusiastically backed Bainimarama`s move to put them on an equal footing with indigenous Fijians.

Tensions between the two races have been the underlying cause of four coups in the island nation since 1987. But Bainimarama promised on Sunday, when the scale of his victory had become apparent, that he would govern "for the well-being of all Fijians".

"This is a victory for all Fijians, this is when history will record that as a nation we have embraced a new future," he told thousands of cheering supporters in Suva.

The election was conducted peacefully and, despite allegations from some opposition figures of irregularities, a multinational observer group has declared the poll "credible" and said it reflects the will of the Fijian people.

The official returns showed an exceptionally high turnout of 83.9 percent among the 590,000 registered voters. There was a festive atmosphere as people queued to cast their ballots last Wednesday.

New Zealand, which along with fellow regional power Australia was among the strongest critics of Fiji`s post-coup military regime, congratulated Bainimarama on his election victory.

"The election process had been a significant step for Fiji, and for New Zealand`s relationship with Fiji," said Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

The British Commonwealth, which suspended Fiji in the wake of Bainimarama`s coup, has already hailed the election as a "welcome turning point" for the country.