SUVA, Fiji – Official results Monday from a landmark Fiji election confirm a big win for the nation's military ruler.
Voreqe Bainimarama and his Fiji First party won an outright majority in the Parliament by taking 32 of 50 seats, according to results released by the Fijian Elections Office.
Last Wednesday's election marked the first time people in the South Pacific nation have gone to the polls since Bainimarama seized control in a 2006 coup.
The opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) won 15 seats and the National Federation Party won three.
Bainimarama is due to be sworn in as prime minister-elect during a ceremony on Monday.
But he did not wait for the official results to claim victory.
"I am greatly honored and humbled that the Fijian people put their trust in me to lead them into our new and true democracy," he said at a church service in Suva on Sunday. "My absolute promise is that we will govern for the wellbeing of all Fijians."
During his speech, Bainimarama defended the coup and thanked the military.
"I publicly acknowledge and thank them for their camaraderie, vision, perseverance and their sacrifice," he said. "It is because of their legacy that today we have a democratically elected parliamentary government."
The Fijian Elections Office said voter turnout was 84 percent with almost 500,000 ballots cast. Bainimarama alone won just over 200,000 votes, and, when other candidates from his party were added, Fiji First won 294,000 votes, or 59 percent of the total. Sodelpa candidates won 140,000 votes, or 28 percent of the total.
Parliamentary seats are allocated under a proportional system.
Five opposition parties that contested the election say they don't accept the result due to voting irregularities.
The leaders from Sodelpa, the National Federation Party and three other parties told journalists they were concerned that multiple ballot boxes had been tampered with. They said some boxes had been removed without the ballots being counted while others had been stuffed with envelopes.
But a group of 92 international observers said the election was credible and they saw no evidence of fraud. It said the result broadly reflects the will of voters.
The election was "enthusiastically embraced by the voters of Fiji who were keen to participate in the democratic process," the Multinational Observer Group wrote in its preliminary findings. "The election was conducted in an atmosphere of calm, with an absence of electoral misconduct or evident intimidation."
The group said in a statement Monday it was ending its formal observation work now that the result had been declared.
The group's endorsement paves the way for international sanctions to be dropped, including Fiji's likely return this month to full status among the Commonwealth group of nations.
Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand.