Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Fijian election

Fijians went to the polls yesterday in the second elections since the 2006 coup. While bad weather forced polling to be suspended in some areas, and the final count is not yet in, the provisional results show coup-leader Voreqe Bainimarama's FijiFirst party has retained its majority. The iTaukei SODELPA party, led by another former coup-leader Sitiveni Rabuka looks likely to be the main opposition, with about 38% of the vote, the Ind-Fijian National Federation Party coming third on 7.5%. There's 30% of the vote left to be counted, and things would have to shift significantly for FijiFirst to be forced into coalition.

FijiFirst threw everything it had at this election, unsuccessfully trying to convict the leader of the opposition over his asset declaration (which, if successful, would have disqualified him from the poll and made all votes for him invalid, costing SODELPA around half its total vote), and prosecuting another high-profile SODELPA candidate for sedition (again, unsuccessfully), and disqualifying former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry from competing. Fiji's election system is built entirely on candidate recognition, with most votes going to party leaders - for example, ~over 70% of FijiFirst's votes were cast for Bainimarama - so eliminating high-profile candidates can have hugely disproportionate effects. And with their dirty tactics, they've managed to just retain power. Which suggests that in a fair election, they might not be so lucky. While none of Fiji's political parties is especially appealing, in order for the coup legacy to end, its architects need to be de-elected. The sooner that happens, the better.