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Fiji prime minister leads provisional election count

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By Karishma Luthria

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was set to win re-election on Thursday, with a provisional count showing his Fiji First party holding a comfortable lead, although some voting has been delayed due to bad weather in the South Pacific nation.

Bainimarama has held power in the island nation since 2006 when as military chief he led a bloodless coup. In 2014, he resigned from the military and became prime minister in a landslide victory at the first poll since his coup.

Results posted on the government's twitter account on Thursday morning showed Bainimarama's Fiji First party leading with nearly 52 percent of the 367,350 votes counted.

Over 500,000 Fijians were eligible to vote, according to the Fiji Elections Office (FEO) website.

Bainimarama's main opponent is also a former coup leader and long-serving prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, who now leads the Social Democratic Liberal Party of Fiji (SODELPA). He was coming second, with 38 percent support.

Torrential rain and flooding on Wednesday forced voting in some centres to be rescheduled. Authorities said around 8,000 voters were affected.

A campaign blackout period was extended because of the delayed voting, but media were allowed to report the preliminary results, Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) Chairperson Ashwin Raj said on Wednesday.

Fiji was isolated diplomatically after the 2006 coup, but its return to democracy has seen it welcomed back into the international community, with Britain's Prince Harry and his wife, Megan, visiting in October.

Jonathan Pryke of the Lowy Institute in Sydney said before the poll that the Bainimarama government had surpassed critics' expectations with the economy growing and standards of living rising steadily.

Polling booths where voting was delayed have been rescheduled to the 17th of November, the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem also announced on Thursday.

(Reporting by Karishma Luthria; Editing by Michael Perry)

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