Rob Naidu, a Fijian of Indian descent who lives in Manurewa, is thrilled that he is able to vote in Fiji's first election in eight years.

A big fan of Voreque "Frank" Bainimarama - the military chief who seized power to become Prime Minister in 2006 - Mr Naidu says he will be using his vote to ensure the commodore remains the country's leader.

"We have problems in Fiji, and the problems will continue no matter who the government is," said Mr Naidu, a furniture delivery man who moved to New Zealand in 2003.

"The difference is, under Commodore Bainimarama, we are seeing solutions, and life getting better, especially for many Indian Fijians."


With under two weeks to the election, polls show Commodore Bainimarama's Fiji First Party looks set to retain a dominant role.

But democracy activists and critics are doubtful the election will be free and fair.

Election organisers are being accused of corruption after 700,000 ballot papers were printed even though there are just 590,000 registered voters.

Elections supervisor Mohammed Saneem said in a radio interview that the spare copies were printed in case people made a mistake.

The ballot paper, which has been sighted by the Herald, does not have party names or logos but just a grid with 249 different numbers.

Voters will have to look through the list of candidates and are expected to remember the number of the candidate they wish to vote for.

"It's really stripping the identity of the candidate, the party," said Asenaca Uluiviti, from the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji.

She said there was a worry that workers at polling stations would guide people to their own preferred candidate.

Ms Uluiviti was one of the speakers at an AUT University seminar on August 28 titled Fiji's Return to Democracy.

Despite thousands of Fiji nationals in New Zealand being eligible to vote, Ms Uluiviti said few would have registered to do so.

Many found out only recently that they had to apply to the electoral commission for the right to vote, she said.

"It is almost a deliberate effort to stop us exercising our vote."

Shamima Ali, chairwoman of the NGO Coalition for Human Rights, said another problem Fiji had was the "draconian section 115" of the electoral decree, which prevented such organisations from influencing voters. "We should have been able to tell women how to vote, to vote for people who promote human rights," she said.

Other "obstacles" included the government using public funds to campaign for Fiji First, and a reporting ban two days before the election.

Ms Ali said support for Fiji First could come from some Indo-Fijian voters, who had been offered many material benefits by the regime.

Seven parties had qualified to take part in the election: Fiji First, Fiji Labour Party, National Federation Party, People's Democratic Party, One Fiji Party, Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) and United Freedom Party.

But Ms Ali warned that there could be problems if Fiji First did not win a clear majority as Commodore Bainimarama was not keen on forming a coalition government.