Grand Coalition Still A Dream
Agrand coalition of all Opposition parties is being touted as the only way they can topple the Bainimarama Government. The idea is based on the experience of the last general election where the parties split votes and allowed FijiFirst a clear run to victory. Some have dubbed it ‘The 50-seater bus’ reflecting a goal to win all 50 seats in Parliament. But details on how it will work will have to be worked out.
The Fiji Labour Party, the National Federation Party and the People’s Democratic Party had competed for the same votes in 2014. The NFP came through with three seats at the expense of FLP and PDP. Most of their targeted voters include members of the labour movement, cane farmers and sugar workers. The fourth Opposition party, One Fiji, was there but had no show. It would have been done better if it had combined with SODELPA. So imagine SODELPA, NFP, FLP, PDP and One Fiji ganging up together against FijiFirst. It would only work if they have a common list of 50 candidates and their voters will vote for any of them But this union will be fraught with practical challenges. How do you get the FLP, PDP and even NFP to sit at the same table. PDP was set up by Felix Anthony and others as a rival to FLP to represent the country’s workers. Both failed miserably.
Professor Vijay Naidu of the University of the South Pacific has once suggested that there was room for only one party. He said it was illogical that the workers’ solidarity was being split by two identical parties. It is not clear whether Mr Anthony, the general secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, will have another shot at politics and a seat in Parliament. He would have to resign from his trade union job. The last time he whipped up controversy when he slotted back to his union post after his 2014 election loss. Mr Anthony and FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry do not like each other. Mr Anthony left the FLP in protest against Mr Chaudhry’s leadership style. Their hostility culminated in Mr Anthony forming the PDP to represent the workers. Previously FLP was regarded as the workers’ party. Throw the NFP into the mix and it becomes murky.
The advocates of the ”50-seater bus” are trying to replicate the powerful coalition of the NFP and FLP in 1987 which defeated Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s ruling Alliance Government. This time the circumstances are different, the most prominent is the new electoral landscape. Today there is only one constituency as opposed to more than 50 with people voting on racial lines in 1987. The NFP and FLP have not done anything major to make people sit up and listen. That’s why they have gone into the canebelt to create that impact. In Labasa we see the footprints of FLP in the cane districts although the NFP recaptured a major slice of the sugar votes in the last election. Mr Chaudhry’s National Farmers Union was born in Labasa before it spread its tentacles to Viti Levu taking a large swathe of the cane belt from the NFP’s Fiji Cane Growers Association. But that status quo has changed. If the FLP, NFP and PDP are able to sort out their differences and pool their resources in conjunction with SODELPA, they might possibly give FijiFirst a good run for its money. FLP, NFP and PDP will focus on the Indo-Fijian support while SODELPA and One Fiji will target the
iTaukei votes. But if they want to stay separate, we are likely to see a repeat of the 2014 general election. At the moment, a grand coalition remains a dream for those talking about it.
One Fiji party logo.
National Federation Party logo.
People’s Democratic Party logo.
Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) logo.
Fiji Labour Party. logo