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.
Mr Bainimarama can boast of some genuine successes. He and his powerful attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, have sought to modernise Fiji and defuse tensions between indigenous Fijians and those of Indian descent. They have built roads and bridges, declared Fiji a secular state and abolished the powerful Great Council of Chiefs. They have declared all citizens to be Fijian, a term not previously used for ethnic Indians.
Mr Rabuka says he accepts some of those changes. But he accuses Mr Bainimarama of bias against their fellow i-Taukei, “the people of the land (ie, indigenous Fijians), and gives voice to their sense of victimhood. Before the election he brought together the often quarrelsome heads of Fiji’s three traditional confederacies in an unusual display of indigenous unity.
Full Article: Fiji’s coup-makers act democratic – Fiji’s election.