Fiji: Ex-coup leaders face-off in parliamentary election
Polling began in the Pacific island state of Fiji on Wednesday, with about half million people eligible to cast their vote and choose Fiji's next prime minister.
More than 1,000 police personnel have been deployed to maintain law and order. The island is holding its third democratic election since 2006.
Observers from 16 countries will oversee the elections as voters elect 55 parliamentarians out of 343 candidates.
The polls will close on Wednesday evening and the results are likely to be announced on Sunday.
Who are the candidates?
The polls pit leaders who previously led separate military coups. Incumbent Frank Voreqe Bainimarama, who leads the FijiFirst Party faces off against former prime minister and opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka in the race for parliamentary majority.
In 2006, Bainimarama, 68, led the country’s fourth coup in 20 years to seize control of Fiji. After eight years of holding onto power, he allowed general elections in 2014 and scored a sweeping victory.
Rabuka, who is looking to end Bainimarama's 16 years in power, is a former army colonel. He led two military coups in 1987 to oust the elected government.
"I'm feeling great and getting better. But victory belongs to the Lord," Rabuka said as he addressed the media after casting his vote at a polling booth in the capital, Suva.
What is at stake?
The elections hold significance for Fiji’s still-fragile democracy amid growing Chinese influence.
Under Bainimarama, Fiji has come closer to China. He introduced the "look north" policy which allowed greater Chinese involvement in the country.
Meanwhile, Rabuka has said that Fiji will pivot away from Beijing under his leadership.
mf/dj (AFP, dpa)