Fiji: Bainimarama returned as PM in slim victory | The Guardian

Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has held on to power in a general election, with his party winning a narrow majority. The Pacific nation this week went to the polls for only the second time since Bainimarama seized control in a military coup in 2006. A final count on Sunday put his FijiFirst party on 50.02% of the total vote, with the Social Democratic Liberal party, led by former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, second on 39.85%. The National Federation party received 7.38%. The outcome is expected to give FijiFirst a narrow but outright majority in the country’s 51-seat parliament and Bainimarama a second term but is significantly tighter than the last election in 2014 when the party won almost 60%. Opposition members are considering challenging the result, local media have reported. While an interim Multinational Observer Group report has called the election process credible, a row broke out between opposition parties and electoral authorities over the weekend about the release of results, which have trickled in since the vote on Wednesday.

Fiji: Coup-makers act democratic | The Economist

Perpetrators of coups tend to do badly at the polls. Those who start their political careers as soldiers seldom adjust easily to life as elected politicians. Frank Bainimarama seems to be an exception. A former head of the armed forces who seized power in a coup in 2006, he won a general election on November 14th, for the second time in a row, with 52% of the vote, according to partial results released the next day. He may have been helped by the fact that his main opponent was another former coup leader and army commander, Sitiveni Rabuka, who started Fiji’s cycle of coups and counter-coups back in 1987. Despite his civilian clothing, Mr Bainimarama has not entirely shed his authoritarian instincts. He bullies journalists and uses an anti-corruption agency to hound rivals. Before the election he said he hoped for a parliament devoid of opposition. On that, at least, he will be disappointed.

Fiji: Prime minister leads provisional election count | 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.

Fiji: Election disrupted as heavy rain forces more than a dozen polling places to close | ABC

Heavy rain has forced more than a dozen polling places in Fiji to close early on election day, affecting 7,852 people, who officials say will be permitted to cast their votes at a later date. Fiji’s supervisor of elections, Mohammad Saneem, told a press conference the 23 polling venues in question were no longer accessible due to rising water levels. “It appears that the waters are rising as I speak, and therefore it has become necessary [for me] to consider adjourning polling at these locations,” he said. Mr Saneem said polling at those locations would begin at a later date, to be announced following consultations between his office and Fiji’s Electoral Commission.

Fiji: Roll will close same day Fiji election announced | Radio New Zealand

The Fiji Elections Office says the registration of voters will close on the day the writ of election is announced. The FBC reported more than 600,000 Fijians have registered for the 2018 General Election as of the first of August this year. The date the 2018 General Election will be held has still not yet been announced. The Elections office Communications Director, Edwin Nand said the writ could be announced at any time and it’s important for eligible Fijians to take the opportunity to register now.

Fiji: Aussies Co-Lead Observers Group For Elections | Fiji Sun

Australia will co-lead the Multinational Observation Group (MOG) for the 2018 General Election. Together with Indonesia and India, the three parties will observe and evaluate the functions and operations of the Fijian Elections Office with respect to the 2018 Fijian General Elections. Acting Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum signed the terms of reference for the MOG with the Australian High Commissioner John Feakes and the Indonesian Ambassador to Fiji Benyamin Scott Carnadi signing on behalf of the two countries. The Indian Government will be signing subsequent to the Indian High Commissioner returning from Nauru next week.

Fiji: Parties want ballot paper change | Fiji Times

THE Fiji Labour Party says the current ballot paper design withholds information that will assist voters in easily identifying the candidate of their choice. Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry made the comment in response to a Tebbutt-Times Poll on the ballot papers that showed majority of people prefer having photos of the candidates alongside their candidate number on the ballot paper. “FLP’s position is that the ballot paper should include the names of the candidates with their photographs and their party acronyms and symbols,” he said. “It is wrong to withhold vital information which would assist the voters to cast their votes with confidence.

Fiji: Elections body allowed to lapse out of existence | Radio New Zealand

With an election looming in Fiji in 2018, the commission responsible for overseeing preparations has been allowed to lapse out of existence. On 9 January, the three-year term of the independent Electoral Commission, a constitutionally-mandated seven-member body tasked with supervising the Elections Office, which is responsible for preparing the vote, expired. Opposition parties say there appears to be no rush to replace the commission, which they say raises concerns about the state of Fiji’s nascent democracy as it prepares to enter its second elections since Frank Bainimarama’s 2006 coup. “There are no longer commissioners and there is no longer an Electoral Commission in place and that’s serious because it’s a constitutional office,” said Biman Prasad, the leader of the opposition National Federation Party. “It shouldn’t be allowed to remain vacant but that is exactly what has happened.”

Fiji: Elections Office Clarifies Its Role | Fiji Sun

The Fijian Elections Office yesterday clarified their role towards the Electoral Commission. Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem, while making submissions on the Multi-National Observer Group and the Electoral Commission report before the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, said their role was to provide secretarial services to the commission. He said this included funding, allowances, travelling and meeting allowances, and other administrative requirements. Mr Saneem said for the past two years they had considered all request and requirements put forward by the commission.

Fiji: Observers back Fiji election but concern at media curbs | AFP

An international monitoring group declared on Tuesday that last year’s election in Fiji was “credible”, but called for restrictions on the media and civil society groups to be eased. The September 2014 vote was the first election in the coup-plagued Pacific nation since military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama seized power in 2006. A multinational observer group (MOG) said it was satisfied the poll, which resulted in a landslide victory for Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party, was carried out correctly. “While the MOG notes areas for improvement of Fiji’s electoral process, it deems this a credible election,” said the group, which has 92 members from 13 countries around the world as well as the European Union, in its final report. “The MOG believes the election broadly represented the will of the Fijian voters. The MOG congratulates the people of Fiji on taking this important step in their return to democracy.”

Fiji: Election Hit With Fraud Accusations | Wall Street Journal

Fiji’s election has been thrown into confusion as a united opposition says it has evidence of fraud, contradicting international observers’ findings that the election result looked to be in line with what people wanted. Provisional results give Rear Adm. Voreqe Bainimarama’s party, Fiji First, a convincing lead with more than 60% of the vote, according to data released by the Fijian election authority early Thursday. The military strongman has ruled Fiji for eight years. The nearest opposition, the Social Democratic Liberal Party, known as Sodelpa, won just 27% of the vote, the election authority said. Final results aren’t expected for several days. Peter Reith, the Australian co-leader of the Multinational Observers Group, said that after talking to 92 observers from 15 countries, it had been concluded the elections were “on track to broadly represent the will of the Fijian voters.”

Fiji: Voreqe Bainimarama frontrunner as Fiji awaits election results | The Guardian

Thousands of Fijians got their first chance to vote in eight years on Wednesday in an election that promises to finally restore democracy to the South Pacific nation of 900,000. Military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama, who has ruled Fiji since he seized control in a 2006 coup, is the frontrunner. He is popular, thanks in part to his focus on social programmes, increased infrastructure spending and a crackdown on the media. In early counting, Bainimarama’s Fiji First party had 59.2% of the vote with 804 of the 2,025 polling stations processed, according to official results reported by the Fiji Times newspaper. Its closest rival, the Sodelpa Party, had 28.1%. After casting his ballot, Bainimarama was asked whether he would accept the outcome if he lost. “I’m not going to lose. I will win. You ask that question to the other party,” he said. Then he added, “Of course we will accept the election results. That is what the democratic process is all about.”

Fiji: Fijians head to polls for first post-coup general election | Reuters

Voters in Fiji headed to the polls on Wednesday for the first time in eight years, following a decision by the South Pacific island nation’s military junta that the time was right for a transition back to democratic rule. Fiji, a tropical idyll about 3,200 km (2,000 miles) east of Australia, has suffered four coups since 1987, the latest in 2006 led by former army chief Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama, whose Fiji First Party had a strong lead heading into the general election. Voters thronged to the polls, appearing ecstatic about once again choosing their leaders despite the spectre of security threats raised by the military and criticism of Bainimarama for using state media to drown out other parties. “I have waited for eight years to be part of this historic day. Everyone voting as … members of this place we call home,” Ramesh Chand told Reuters after casting his vote for Fiji First.

Fiji: Ghosts of ethnic conflicts past haunt Fiji vote | Reuters

When voters in Fiji head to the polls on Wednesday for the first time in eight years, they will be voting not only for a leader, but also testing the success of one of their military junta’s key justifications: ending a history of ethnic conflict. Fiji, a chain of more than 300 tropical islands in the South Pacific, has suffered four coups since 1987, the latest in 2006 led by former army chief Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama, whose Fiji First Party has a strong lead heading into the general election. Bainimarama seized on a long-simmering rivalry between indigenous Fijian nationalists and the descendants of ethnic Indian laborers, brought by the British to work sugarcane fields, to justify his coup. In 2000, ethnic Fijian nationalists held the country’s first Indo-Fijian prime minister hostage in Parliament for 56 days, which led to riots in the streets of the capital, Siva. Bainimarama quickly abolished traditional, rival power bases such as the ethnic Fijian Great Council of Chiefs while steadily pushing for equal rights culminating in a 2013 constitution, helping him to consolidate his popularity amongst Indo-Fijians. But while new laws mean equality has improved on the surface, in reality, the animosity festers under the surface, said Professor Brie La, an expert on Fiji at the Australian National University.

Fiji: Fiji Heads to Polls, But Will Democracy Be the Victor? | Wall Street Journal

Fiji’s election this week won’t just determine who will rule the picturesque cluster of islands in the South Pacific, but also whether a promise to return to democracy will be fulfilled. About 600,000 Fijians are set to head to the polls Wednesday in what is being touted as the island nation’s first free and fair election. Critics, however, say the vote is little more than a charade held to legitimize the current regime, which gained power in a 2006 coup. The nation’s politics are far removed from the popular image of Fiji: most people who come here are vacationers from Australia or the U.S., seeking sunshine and a getaway on the island’s palm-lined sandy beaches. But the past eight years of military rule have been littered with accusations of human- rights abuses and the quashing of opponents. “All I’ve known growing up is coups, to be honest,” said 27-year-old Monica Waqanisau, who was born in 1987, the year two coups took place. Since then, there have been two more in the former British colony.

Fiji: Draconian media blackout imposed ahead of this week’s poll | The Australian

Fiji has imposed a strict media blackout on coverage of its first elections since the 2006 coup, warning that journalists face up to five years in jail if they do not comply. The blackout applies to political campaigning, interviews with candidates and election material such as posters or banners. It also prohibits discussion of this week’s vote on public forums including social media sites. Fiji’s elections supervisor Mohammed Saneem claimed the measure was intended to give the electorate a chance to reflect on how to vote in Wednesday’s poll without being bombarded by partisan messages intended to influence their decision. “The blackout is there to protect the voter from incessant campaigning before polling so that the voter can decide without any influence or undue pressure,” he told reporters. Campaign workers in Suva were today busy removing promotional material before the start of the blackout, which runs from 7.30am today (1930 GMT Sunday) to the close of polling at 6pm on Wednesday.

Fiji: Final number: 700,000 | Fiji Times

Yestrerday, the Fijian Elections Office officially printed the 700,000th ballot paper – the final paper for Fiji’s big day – the September 17 national election. The papers have been bound into 14,000 books and have been transported in a total of 467 boxes, the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, confirmed yesterday morning at a press conference at Star Printery in Suva. “The Fijian Elections Office wishes to advise that as of now, we have finished the printing and compilation of the ballot papers. The last batch was just dispatched to a secure facility,” Mr Saneem said. “We have printed 700,000 ballot papers and they are bound into 14,000 books and we have transported them across in 467 boxes. We used a total of 8770kg of paper for printing the ballot papers.”

Fiji: As election nears, Western nations look to revive influence | Reuters

Voters in Fiji’s election this month are keen to end a dictatorship that has ruled the South Pacific island nation since a military coup in 2006, but sprucing up its human rights situation, and ties with Western neighbors, will take time. Change could be slow because Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama, the army chief who seized power to become prime minister, looks set to retain a dominant role, with polls giving his Fiji First Party a strong lead in the run-up to the Sept. 17 election. The much-delayed vote is being closely watched by neighbors Australia and New Zealand, the region’s economic and diplomatic powerhouses. They and their Western allies are eager to welcome Fiji back to the fold after eight years of diplomatic, military and travel sanctions that appear to have achieved little.

Fiji: First vote in over 8 years for Fijians |

For the first time in eight and a half years, nearly 600,000 Fijians are voting in a democracy-restoring general election. Early voting before the September 17 elections began today in venues around the archipelago, including army bases and prisons. But the long wait for democracy’s return coincides with the capture of 45 Fijian peacekeepers by an al Qaeda-linked group in civil war-racked Syria. They are all new soldiers without peacekeeping experience. The military says they have been affected by seeing people being beheaded near their base. Pre-poll voters are confronted with a big sheet of paper containing numbers beginning from 135 and up to 382. Each number relates to the 247 people running in the elections. Military strongman Frank Bainimarama, who ended democracy with a coup in 2006 and who devised the voting system, is No 279.

Fiji: Australia to co-lead Multinational Observation Group with Indonesia, India and PNG | ABC

Australia is sending a team of observers to Fiji to ensure next month’s general elections are free and fair. It will be the first election in Fiji since Frank Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006. The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australia is co-leading a 14 member Multinational Observation Group with Indonesia, India and Papua New Guinea. She’s appointed former Defence and Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith to lead the Australian team, saying he has a “strong interest in supporting democracy internationally.” Mr Reith says it’s a very important moment for Fiji. “It’s a good opportunity for Fiji, and Australia is keen to be of assistance,” he said.

Fiji: Ballot numbering selected at random, Fiji Election Commission calls for early nomination submission | Islands Business

Fiji’s Electoral Commission chairman Chen Bunn Young said the ballot paper numbering was selected at random and denies it has any other implication aside from starting with a three-digit number to avoid any confusion for voters. His comments follow statements reported to have been made by former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who suggested it had religious implications leaning towards the Quran. “There was no thought put behind it as to what it would resemble or if it has any religious implication or connotation like it has been suggested. “We did not use no.1 because of the fact that number gives a false impression to voters that the person is the number one candidate. It was chosen at random for that reason and the reason that it was a three-digit number,” Young said. He further said in instances where a report or a complaint is made to the commission, they would have to verify it first to ascertain facts.

Fiji: Election official confirms polling will be more than one day | Islands Business magazine

The 2014 election will include a two week pre-polling period for voters in the remote parts of Fiji. Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem confirmed in a press conference in Suva today (Wednesday) that there could be a fortnight pre-polling period before September 17 to cater for voters who live in remote areas. “For instance you may seen that we have listed 174 venues for the eastern division and you have been hearing over past few days and months that there may be situation where pre polling could be done for remote locations. “We will go in advance of 17 September to conduct polling for voters in remote areas so it does not become an operational issue on September 17. “Pre polling is going to work in favour of those voters and assist the Fiji Elections Office in providing proper access for everybody.”

Fiji: Labour Party calls for Electoral commission resignation | Islands Business

Fiji’s Labour Party remains unconvinced about the Electoral Commission’s independence calling for their resignation if they are not able to carry out their duties independently. Labour Party president Lavinia Padarath said the commission appear “to be accepting objectionable provisions of the Electoral Decree that could undermine the conduct of free and fair elections. This is totally unacceptable,” Padarath said. “The commission should be left alone to act independently. If it is not allowed to do so, then the proper course for its members would be to resign because it is now a question of their integrity and credibility.”

Fiji: 85% eligible voters are registered: Fiji Electoral Commission chairman | Islands Business

Approximately 85% of eligible voters are registered, which is an extremely impressive figure and represents the largest number of registered voters in Fiji’s history, says Electoral Commission chairman Chen Bunn Young. And the Elections Office is focusing on providing as many locations as possible around the country where Fijians can register to vote. Young said the Commission is determined to pick up the pace of opening registration centres in convenient locations across Fiji.

Fiji: Voters raise concern | Fiji Times

The office of the Electoral Commission will conduct a voter education drive to get people up to par with the elections process. Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirmed this after hearing concerns from villagers on Kadavu of their confusion on the voting process. The government delegation was made aware of these concerns during a tour by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to the island this week.

Fiji: Electoral Commission chairman confident of meeting election deadline | Islands Business

The chairman of Fiji’s Electoral Commission says he is confident the commission will be able to complete its work in time for elections promised for September. The government recently announced a seven member commission, headed by former president of the Fiji Law Society Chen Bunn Young, to oversee the elections. Young says the commission has a lot of work to do, including appointing an election supervisor, but it can be done.

Fiji: Electoral Commission members appointed | Fiji Village

The 7 members of the Electoral Commission have been announced today after being appointed by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. Those who will make up the 7 member Electoral Commission were revealed by the Attorney General and Minister for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum this afternoon. The Commission is made up of 7 prominent citizens from various walks of life headed by its Chair, leading legal practitioner Chen Bunn Young, who is a former President of the Fiji Law Society. The other members are academic Professor Vijay Naidu of USP, the tourism industry leader and marketing expert James Sowane, accountant and financial advisor Jenny Seeto, the filmmaker and media specialist Larry Thomas, electoral expert and priest Father David Arms and the educationalist and civil society leader Alisi Daurewa.

Fiji: Academic says Fiji needs to set up an Electoral Commission as soon as possible | Islands Business

An Auckland University political scientist says the Fiji Government needs to set up an Electoral Commission as soon as possible, in preparation for the country’s approaching elections. A general election is promised for September but the members for the commission and an election supervisor are yet to be appointed. Stephen Ratuva says an Electoral Commission is needed soon. “Some names have been bandied around but nothing has been confirmed yet so they are still looking for people to be on the commission – that’s a very very important aspect of the electoral process – to have a commission in place and also the electoral regulations to be in place before the election. Because the electoral commission will basically look after the election process.”

Fiji: Regime scotches claims it’s stalling on key election preparations | Radio New Zealand

The Fiji regime says everything is on track for elections by the end of September next year and an independent Electoral Commission will be in place in a matter of weeks. But its critics say the Bainimarama government is stalling on crucial elections’ machinery and jeapardising the chance of free and fair polls. Commonwealth Heads of Government have urged Fiji to rapidly set up an independent electoral commission to oversee the elections due by the end of September next year. The leader of the Fiji Labour Party and a former Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, says he’s never seen Fiji so ill-prepared for an election. “We don’t have an Electoral Commission. We don’t have a supervisor of elections. So much more could be done. We don’t even have electoral legislation in place at the moment. So all this lack of preparation points to doubts in the minds of the people whether we are going to have elections as scheduled for September next year.”

Fiji: Elections will go ahead despite political opposition, voter registration to start in NZ | Islands Business magazine

Despite acceptance from neighbours Australia and New Zealand, two of the four registered political parties in Fiji remain adamant they will not support the Constitution. Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Senior Executive Tupeni Baba says the two countries have no say in domestic politics. In no way will Australia and New Zealand push us to elections. If we do get to elections when we decide, that the provisions are sufficiently flexible sufficiently fair and transparent then we will urge the people in Fiji to come with us. Question: What I can make out is you do not want elections to happen next year? Well not under the current provisions until the elections can be shown to be independently managed,” said Baba. The National Federation Party’s Raman Pratap Singh says Australia and New Zealand’s acceptance of the Constitution doesn’t matter.