POLITICS: SODELPA BETTER ORGANISED
NOW BUT WILL IT TRANSLATE INTO MORE VOTES?
SODELPA, learning from its experience in the 2014 general election, has taken concrete steps not to repeat the same mistakes. One of those mistakes was leaving things to the last weeks before polling began.
The first major sign that it’s now switched on to election mode is its clarion call for volunteers to help mobilise the party machinery.
In a message to its supporters the party says: “Get involved today: SODELPA aims to win the 2018 elections. All political parties are self-funding and volunteering is one way to donate your time and skills to help the party win in 2018. “There’s more than one way to help SODELPA: Parties are funded solely by donations and volunteering is a way for you to contribute to the campaign - it is your beliefs in action. “You will work with a great team of like-minded volunteers giving our all to ensure Fiji is governed in the right way. Voluntary help is needed at all levels of the party and in all divisions of Fiji. “We rely on our members to shape our policies, fight our campaigns and help to run and win elections where we can make a difference for Fiji.” Those interested have to apply with their CVs which will be vetted and approved or rejected.
This is in line with the party’s resolutions at a special general meeting last year which adopted sweeping changes to the party’s constitution. The changes were designed to strengthen the party machinery, raise the quality of SODELPA policies to comply with accountability and transparency standards, and position the party for an improved performance in the 2018 general election. While its declared aim is to win the election, party leader Sitiveni Rabuka and senior party officials know it would take a massive effort even a miracle to defeat Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s FijiFirst Government.
In his political comeback, Mr Rabuka has shown he is a realist. He has previously said that it would be difficult to unseat FijiFirst from power in its current form.
But he is also a strategist, an art he gained from his military career. He also has experience on his side because he has held the country’s top job as Prime Minister and he also knows what it’s like to suffer a humiliating loss in a general election. In 1999, his SVT Party failed to win a seat. It became the party’s kiss of death.
After all these years of wandering in the political wilderness he is back to have his last crack at politics. His biggest challenge is credibility. He has received cold reception from the same group, including Opposition Leader and former party leader Ro Teimumu Kepa, that blocked his attempt to become party leader in 2014 because of his coup involvement in 1987. They are part of a larger group outside the party who are still suspicious of Mr Rabuka although he has apologised publicly. Mr Rabuka’s saving grace is the reformers, responsible for the changes happening in the party now, support him and believe he has what it takes to make a difference in 2018.
One of the architects of the reforms is lawyer, public and business analyst, Adi Litia Qionibaravi, the party’s acting general secretary. Adi Litia advises a core group of reformers that include some MPs like Salote Radrodro, Aseri Radrodro, Mosese Bulitavu, and senior party officials like management board member Anare Jale, a former permanent secretary of the Public Service Commission and exdiplomat. They have revamped structures to lift the bar. Party volunteers will be thoroughly screened to meet the criteria as the party builds towards an integrated approach to the election campaign. The party is drawing up an elaborate campaign plan. One of the features is that at the local branch level, volunteering will involve door to door campaigns, handing out flyers, helping organise party rallies, fundraising activities and taking part in party meetings. In all areas SODELPA says it will provide in-house training but any relevant experience and skill sets would be desirable. “Wherever possible we aim to identify specific roles for people according to their skills, experience, interest and availability. The more information you provide on the application form, the greater the likelihood of us being able to find an appropriate way to use your skills. We are very fortunate to receive a high level of interest for volunteering in our office, but with only limited opportunities available, this unfortunately means it is not always possible to place everyone that applies.” Aspiring members would also have to apply to become candidates for the election and they must meet the minimum standards required to be considered eligible.
The activities so far are a stark contrast to what the party did in 2014. The party looks more organised now and it appears it will be better prepared. The challenge is whether this will translate into more votes.
TOMORROW: Issues that constitute SODELPA’s biggest challenge