‘Merry Christmas Fiji – free at last’ as Sodelpa confirms joining coalition

Sodelpa board member Tanya Waqanika
Sodelpa board member Tanya Waqanika after the meeting in Suva tonight . . . "Free at last". Image: Timoci Vula/The Fiji Times

By Timoci Vula in Suva

“Merry Christmas Fiji!”

This was the message to Fiji from kingmakers Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) management board member and MP Tanya Waqanika after their meeting in Suva ended this evening.

Asked whether her Christmas wishes meant good news for the people of Fiji, she responded: “Free at last.”

Waqanika was one of the 26 management board members who participated in the secret ballot — which voted in favour of a coalition with the People’s Alliance and the National Federation Party, the second time in barely 72 hours that the board backed the coalition.

This vote confirms the end of 16 years of domination of Fiji politics by 2006 coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama — half as the military leader and the rest as an elected FijiFirst party prime minister.

It will usher in a new era with coalition rule and 1987 coup leader and former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka heading the government.

A secret ballot held at the meeting at the Southern Cross Hotel resulted in 13 votes for the PAP-NFP coalition and 12 for the FijiFirst Party.

‘Anomalies’ forced new vote
In Tuesday’s vote, the numbers were 16-14 in favour of the People’s Alliance-led coalition. However the validity of that vote was challenged over claimed “anomalies”.

Party vice-president Anare Jale said the next step now was to work on a coalition agreement.

Sodelpa vice-president Anare Jale
Sodelpa vice-president Anare Jale speaks to news media in Suva tonight to announce their coalition with the People’s Alliance Party-NFP. Image: Timoci Vula/The Fiji Times

He said that agreement would detail all the information and work that would be taking place today and during the holidays.

“Hopefully, something will be concluded and signed on Wednesday next week,” Jale said at the press conference after the day-long Sodelpa meeting.

Timoci Vula is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.

  • Parliament will hold a vote for the new prime minister, expected to Sitiveni Rabuka, on Saturday.

Not out of the woods yet
RNZ Pacific reports that Fijians will have to hold back their celebration until a final decision is made on the floor of Parliament, where MPs will cast their votes for the next prime minister and speaker of the house in a secret ballot.

Soldepa vice-president and head of negotiations Anare Jale told media urgency was the utmost priority for the party.

“What we are doing today is to issue directives to our three members of Parliament on how they are going to vote for the position of speaker and also prime minister,” Jale said.

“We know Parliament will convene shortly, so, more the reasons these directive needs to be in the hands of the members of Sodelpa’s MP in Parliament.”

He added that a coalition agreement was to follow in the next few days … “Hopefully, something can be concluded and signed by Wednesday.”

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