Fiji prepares for first poll under new constitution

The countdown to Fiji’s first General Election under its new Constitution is well underway with the country’s long-established political parties vying to out-maneuver 2006 coup leader, and incumbent Prime Minister, Rear Admiral Voreqe Bainimarama’s new Fiji First Party. Currently registered and in the political race are Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party (FFP), the longestablished National Federation Party (NFP) – under the new leadership of former academic – Dr Biman Prasad, Fiji Labour Party (FLP), the Social Liberal Democratic Party (SODELPA) and the new People’s Democratic Party (PDP). SODELPA, led by a paramount chief – the Marama Gone na Roko Tui Dreketi – Ro Teimumu Kepa, is the successor to the former Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) Party which was led by former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who was ousted from government by Bainimarama’s December 2006 coup.

The new PDP, which is led by former FLP stalwart Felix Anthony, is viewed widely as a break-away group following a much publicized fall-out with FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry. Surprisingly, with the General Election due just over a month away on September 17 and the political campaigning well underway, a proposed Fiji United Freedom Party (FUFP) has also recently filed for registration under Fiji’s Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Decree. Most of the FUFP’s leaders, including its President, Jagath Karunaratne, are viewed as political newcomers. At least one other political grouping, led by some former SDL stalwarts has indicated its intention to also register a new political party.

There is also at least one known social worker, Roshika Deo, who hopes to contest next month’s General Election as an Independent candidate. Not surprisingly, with so many political parties having largely similar manifestos and each jockeying for the largest share of Fiji’s registered 550,000 voters (at last count) alliances are starting to form with SODELPA and the FLP announcing their intention to form a political coalition post-Election.

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