Fiji election: Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama loses parliamentary majority

highlights
  • Fiji’s election results are in – and no political party has won an outright majority.
  • The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) now holds the balance and power.
  • SODELPA says it will seek the ministry’s position to advance the rights of indigenous Fijians.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has lost his parliamentary majority as the final vote count returned.
The former opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) is in negotiations with the FijiFirst government and the People’s Alliance, which will support them with their balance of power.
Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party is the largest single party with 42.5 per cent of the vote, while the People’s Alliance and National Federation Party – which have already announced they will merge – sit on 36 and nine per cent respectively.
SODELPA holds just over five percent of the votes. The other five political parties failed to clear the 5 percent threshold required to elect a member to the 55-member enlarged Parliament.

SODELPA Secretary-General Lenaitai Duru said Sunday it would enter the second round of negotiations with both parties.

Duru said non-negotiable issues include their priority indigenous and education policies.
The party campaigned for free higher education and the allocation of $159 million ($107.8 million) a year to indigenous affairs, a more than 10-fold increase in the government’s budget for the ministry this fiscal year.
The general secretary said it was not hypocritical that the party was negotiating with the government after running on a “time for change” platform.
“It’s not hypocritical if you make that change,” he said.

Duru said the party is sitting in the middle, awaiting offers to decide what is best for the nation.

But he was quoted in local media as hitting back at People’s Alliance MP Lynda Tabuya for calling SODELPA a “haunted house” after disembarking after the lead sailed.
“When she left, she took the horror with her. We will not be haunted anymore, we are ready to form the next government,” Duru was quoted as saying by the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday.
“Some people have gone out of their way to damage, wreck and wreck the party, but we’re still standing.”
Should SODELPA side with the People’s Alliance, it would mark the end of Bainimarama’s nearly 16 years in power, having seized control in a coup in 2006 and becoming prime minister the following year.

Popular Alliance leader Sitiveni Rabuka, himself a former coup plotter-turned-Prime Minister, previously led SODELPA to the 2018 elections.

He cut Bainimarama’s majority to 50.02 percent, pulling a nearly 12 percent swing toward the party in the process.
Rabuka was then ousted by current leader Viliame Gavoka, leading to him founding the People’s Alliance, which attracted nine other members.
Rabuka and three other opposition parties have been vocal about problems with the electoral system and said they lost confidence in Fijian electoral bureau after falling behind.
The multinational observer group said it observed “no material irregularities or problems during the primary, postal or Election Day voting.”

But Rabuka and leaders of three other opposition parties continue to allege voting irregularities and possible fraud.

Election commissioner Mohammed Saneem accused opposition parties of spreading conspiracy theories about the election without evidence and said they were trying to discredit the election before the final results were counted.
“I would like to ask everyone to be patient until the result data entry is complete,” he said.
“Once you have the results, you can do whatever you want. We’re not worried about that.
“If someone is not satisfied with the result, a court case follows.”

This article was made possible by the Melbourne Press Club’s Michael Gordon Journalism Fellowship Program.

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