Grand Coali­tion Still A Dream

Fiji Sun - - Election Countdown 2018 - by Nemani Delaibatiki nemani.delaibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

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

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