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.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Fiji.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The Fijian Electoral Commission has welcomed the initiative by the Fijian Elections Office to conduct voter registration continuously. And Commission Chairperson, Chen Bunn Young is inviting all eligible Fijians to take advantage of this opportunity to register to vote. Young says it’s important to continue to update the Voter Roll and ensure that registration is accessible to any Fijian as it is a voluntary process.