Fiji’s Sodelpa says back to the drawing board over coalition talks

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Sodelpa party leader Viliame Gavoka
Sodelpa party leader Viliame Gavoka . . . "Do another round of talks. That is what we have decided." Image: RNZ Pacific

RNZ Pacific

The Fijian people will need to still wait to find out who will lead the country for the next four years after the kingmaker Social Democratic Liberal Party’s board failed to agree to proposals put forward by the incumbent FijiFirst and the opposition People’s Alliance-National Federation Party after intense negotiations today.

Following almost four hours of politicking which started at 10.30am local time, party leader Viliame Gavoka emerged from the meeting to declare no deal had been made.

“Let me once again stress that we fully understand and appreciate the challenge that is with us at Sodelpa to decide how this country will be governed for the next four years,” an emotional Gavoka told the media in Suva.

“We fully understand the significance of this. We are committed to ensuring that our decision who governs this country will be done for the best interest of our people.”

Negotiations between Sodelpa and FijiFirst, the People’s Alliance and NFP began on Sunday evening and Gavoka confirmed his team met with both parties and listened to what they had to offer.

He said the Sodelpa board had gone through “in great detail” offers from both parties and had decided to continue negotiations.

“The negotiating team goes back to the parties concerned, [it will] relook at some aspects of the offer and bring it back to the management board on Wednesday at 2pm,” he said.

“Do another round of talks. That is what we have decided.”

‘Not fair’ on Fijians
But Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre coordinator Shamima Ali said it was not fair that the Fijian people who went out and voted were now having to wait this long for a government to be formed.

Ali is calling for the political leaders to “come to their senses”.

“I hope that political parties come to an understanding for a peaceful Fiji where human rights are respected and where we don’t have such restrictive laws,” she said.

She said she hoped that the “kingmakers” would put the people first when making the final decision “and behaving like the religious society that we are where forgiveness and kindness are paramount”.

Chance for ‘real democracy’, says academic
University of Canterbury Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies director Professor Steven Ratuva has labelled it a “knife-edge election”.

Dr Ratuva said Fiji had seen a shift in power, but it still held a chance to bring back “real democracy” in the country.

He added all players understood the power conjured up by Sodelpa, and big bargains from both sides would be dangled before them.

The options on the table for Sodelpa are woven with political complexities. On one hand is Voreqe Bainimarama’s FijiFirst, which deposed the founding leader of Sodelpa – late Prime Minister Laiseni Qarase, who was arrested and jailed following the 2006 coup.

However, Dr Ratuva said an unexpected coalition between FijiFirst and Sodelpa would not be “impossible”.

“The history of Fiji is littered with such cases where opposing politicians got together, remember when [Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra] Chaudhry got together with Rabuka as prime minister in 1992,” he explained.

‘Nothing impossible’
“Nothing is impossible in Fiji and in politics generally”.

Dr Ratuva said desperation was in the air, and Sodelpa would be able to leverage on promises made on the campaign trail.

“FijiFirst will be desperate to give them what they want,” he said.

“Even the deputy prime minister’s position or even to speculate the prime minister’s position, but whether that will happen or not is another question because I doubt that Bainimarama would easily relinquish that position, which he has been holding for a long time.”

But whether the two parties are able to see eye-to-eye on policy remains in question.

Dr Ratuva said Sodelpa’s manifesto strongly counters the policies of the FijiFirst party, not only in this election but over the last two terms in parliament.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ. 

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