Indigenous swing to SODELPA in 2018 national elections: academic

3By Dionisia Tabureguci
Australia National University academic Dr Stewart Firth said there was a noticeable swing of Fijian indigenous (i-taukei) voters from the Fiji First Party (FFP) to the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) in the 2018 national general elections, based on provisional election results.   
The two major parties started out at neck and neck pace when counting began but by evening, FFP, with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama as party leader, had taken giant strides ahead of the Sitiveni Rabuka-led SODELPA.
By the time the release of provisional results stopped this morning, FFP had amassed 191, 266 votes (51.63 percent) while SODELPA had managed 140,963 (38.05 percent), with counting completed in 1,586 of 2,170 (or 73 percent) polling stations around the country.
Based on these statistics, Dr Firth said it was evident that there was a swing of i-taukei voters against Fiji First towards SODELPA, “suggesting that more i-taukei voted for SODELPA this time.”
SODELPA bettered its performance this year, as was evident from the provisional tally so far, where even at 73 percent vote counted, it had registered 140,963 votes, which is more than the 139,857 the party attracted at full count in the 2014 elections.
“I Taukei concerns include the control and dismantling of cherished traditional institutions by the government; and that combined with the pulling power of a strong leader Rabuka and everyday concerns such as the minimum wage and the cost of living,” said Firth, who had been Professor of Politics at the University of the South Pacific between 1998 and 2004 and also co-edited The 2006 Military Takeover in Fiji: a coup to end all coups?, a book that explores the factors behind – and the implications of – the 2006 coup.
The vote sway was also evident in the details of voting results coming out of the Fiji Elections Office through its FEO app, where some areas which had strongly supported Fiji First in 2014 have now rallied behind SODELPA and its leader Rabuka.
Firth said it was obvious too in the campaigns leading up to the polls that Fiji was still haunted by its recent past, which had been riddled with coups.
“The legacy of Fiji’s recent history could be seen in the way the campaign became a contest between two former military men, both ageing coup makers who seized power and became prime minister: Rabuka (70 years old) and Bainimarama (64). Rabuka said he would set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine recent coups if he won office, while Bainimarama raised questions about Rabuka’s role in the military mutiny of November 2000, when he was widely rumoured to have attempted to take over as military commander. Bainimarama promised stability. Fiji lives with its coups still,” he said.
Official results are available from the FEO app while counting is still taking place at the counting center in Suva.