Fiji election: Sitiveni Rabuka becomes new prime minister, ending 16-year reign of Frank Bainimarama

highlights
  • Sitiveni Rabuka becomes Fiji’s new prime minister after forming a tripartite coalition.
  • These include his People’s Alliance Party, the Social Liberal Democratic Party and the National Federation Party.
  • The election results ended Frank Bainimarama’s almost 16-year tenure.
Cheers, singing, car horns and even fireworks filled the streets outside the office of the man who will be crowned Fiji’s new prime minister.
Sitiveni Rabuka will lead the Pacific nation after his People’s Alliance party won the votes of the Social Liberal Democratic Party (SODELPA), whose three members held the balance of power after a hanging parliament.

Mr Rabuka will lead a tripartite coalition between the People’s Alliance, which bills itself as an alternative to the nationalist FijiFirst government, the indigenous-leaning SODELPA and the more liberal-democratic National Federation Party.

It is the second time that Mr Rabuka has become prime minister, having seized control in a 1987 coup before legitimizing his government in a democratic election in 1992.
He remained in power until 1999.

Liberal Democrat leaders narrowly voted to dethrone Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama with 16 votes for the People’s Alliance and 14 for FijiFirst, after three days of negotiations with both sides.

A man in an orange patterned shirt walks outside with people around him.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama after casting his vote in Wednesday’s general election. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

Mr Rabuka said he was grateful for the decision.

“I want to thank the people of Fiji – congratulate them,” Mr Rabuka told partisans and the press gathered at the People’s Alliance headquarters on Tuesday night.

“They voted for change and I think we gave them that.”

“A new era will begin”

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad called it a historic result and said the people had chosen “a new way, a new way and a new government”.
“Leaders are delighted to bring the people of Fiji a Christmas present from a strong and united coalition government ready to respond to their call for change,” he said.
“We promise the people of Fiji that a new era will begin.”

Both leaders also thanked the Prime Minister and the FijiFirst government, who have yet to officially concede the election.

An End to the Reign of Frank Bainimarama

The result ended Mr Bainimarama’s nearly 16-year reign after he orchestrated a coup in 2006 and installed himself as prime minister the following year.

Mr Bainimarama led FijiFirst to two Democratic victories in 2014 and 2018 but failed to secure a majority in last week’s election.

FijiFirst will have 26 seats in the expanded 55-seat Parliament, while the People’s Alliance will have 21, the National Federation will have five and SODELPA will have three.
FijiFirst received 42.5 percent of the vote, the People’s Alliance 36 percent, the National Federation Party nine percent and SODELPA more than five percent.
SODELPA campaigned for free higher education, $159 million (US$106 million) a year for indigenous affairs, and additional protections for indigenous land rights.
The party’s religiously conservative leader, Viliame Gavoka, had also called for an embassy in Jerusalem, arguing that Fiji must base itself on its Christian principles.
SODELPA Vice-President Anare Jale said the appointment of one of the party’s three members – likely Mr Gavoka – as deputy prime minister, despite being the smallest in the coalition, had also been discussed with the People’s Alliance.

But details of the final agreement remain scarce.

The multinational observer group said it observed “no material irregularities or problems during the primary, postal or election-day voting” after electoral concerns were raised by the People’s Alliance, the NFP and other opposition parties.
Mr Rabuka had used an election night error in the results app to denounce trust in Fijian electoral bureau and called for the military to be deployed to monitor a fair counting process.

The army commander refused to intervene in the election.

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