Home Top News Voting underneath method in Fiji’s high-stakes election

Voting underneath method in Fiji’s high-stakes election


Voting is underneath method in Fiji in a high-stakes election that’s being seen as a check of the Pacific nation’s democracy.

Wednesday’s election pits the social gathering of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama towards a coalition headed by his longtime rival, Sitiveni Rabuka.

The vote is the third democratic election in Fiji since Bainimarama, who seized energy in a coup in 2006, launched a brand new structure in 2013.

Bainimarama’s FijiFirst social gathering went on to win elections in 2014 and 2018 however is now going through a “formidable” problem from Rabuka’s coalition, with voters involved concerning the rising value of living in a tourism-reliant nation that has been hit onerous by the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 1 / 4 of the nation’s inhabitants of 900,000 folks stay in poverty, in response to official figures.

“It is now the third election cycle since the 2013 constitution. And what is at stake is whether they [Fijians] want four more years of the previous eight under Frank Bainimarama, whether they want him to continue or whether they want change,” mentioned William Waqavakatoga, a PhD candidate in politics and worldwide relations on the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Bainimarama, 68, faces an uphill battle, Waqavakatoga instructed Al Jazeera.

Key points in Wednesday’s election embrace the hovering value of living, deteriorating infrastructure and a “bungled” COVID-19 response.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama attends a meeting during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama attends a gathering throughout the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, November 2, 2021 [File: Phil Noble/Pool via Reuters]

There has additionally been criticism of the prime minister’s governance report, Waqavakatoga mentioned, together with allegations of political interference on the University of the South Pacific and an issue over a contempt of courtroom case the federal government launched towards well-known lawyer Richard Naidu. The lawyer had identified {that a} choose had mistakenly written “injection” when he meant “injunction” in courtroom paperwork.

Naidu has been discovered responsible and is ready to be sentenced in January.

Fears of instability

Voters in Fiji are additionally involved a couple of return to instability in a nation that has seen 4 coups in 35 years.

The energy grabs have been racially fuelled, with Indigenous Fijians afraid of shedding political management to the economically highly effective Indo-Fijian minority, who make up 35 % of the nation’s inhabitants and are descended from the ethnic Indians introduced in to work within the sugarcane fields throughout the British colonial-era.

Rabuka, a former army chief, staged the primary two of the facility grabs in 1987 after a coalition dominated by Indo-Fijians received a basic election. He went on to introduce a structure enshrining political dominance for Indigenous Fijians in 1990 and to change into prime minister after a basic election in 1992.

Bainimarama, who led a push for equality following his energy seize in 2006, together with abolishing the nation’s race-based electoral system, has performed up Rabuka’s nationalist previous throughout this yr’s marketing campaign. The 74-year-old opposition chief has tried to restore belief with the Indo-Fijian group by reaching out to Indo-Fijians at home and overseas, and by forming a coalition between his People’s Alliance and the National Federation Party, which attracts a multi-racial vote.

“What’s happening now is that Rabuka is trying to correct his past of being prime minister and on the other side, you have Bainimarama who’s said Rabuka is the same person who led the nationalists of 1987. And he’s used that as a tactic perhaps as to motivate fear in the electorate,” mentioned Waqavakatoga.

“But I think this time round you’ll see that more people are concerned about economics rather than that fear.”

Sitiveni Rabuka leaves after voting at a polling station during the Fijian general election in Suva, Fiji
Sitiveni Rabuka leaves after voting at a polling station throughout the Fijian basic election in Suva, Fiji, December 14, 2022 [Mick Tsikas via Reuters]

Observers say the army’s position might be key following Wednesday’s vote.

Ahead of the election, the army sought to allay fears of any interventions, with Major General Jone Kalouniwai insisting his forces will “honour the democratic process by respecting the outcome”.

In the capital Suva, voters mentioned there was a palpable feeling of rigidity forward of the election.

“It’s a bit tense at the moment because the older parties and the new parties are clashing into each other,” voter Avinay Kumar, 26, instructed the AFP information company.

Bainimarama, who solid his vote in Suva, was requested if he would settle for the outcomes of Wednesday’s vote.

“Of course,” he replied earlier than lashing out at reporters, suggesting they ask “better questions”.

Rabuka, who additionally solid his vote in Suva, mentioned he was “feeling great and getting better”.

But he known as into query whether or not the prime minister would concede if defeated.

“I accepted my defeat in 1999,” Rabuka mentioned. “I hope he can do that. We cannot live forever, we cannot rule forever.”

Polling is anticipated to finish at 6pm native time (06:00GMT) and outcomes are anticipated inside days.

Ahead of the vote, a multinational election observer group, led by Australia, India and Indonesia, mentioned it had been given “full access” to election websites and had not “observed any irregularities” in registration or pre-polling.


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