NEWS

Rabuka, Chaudhry Maybe Not Cut Out For Real Unity

ANALYSIS:The symbolic cutting of the cake jointly by Sitiveni Rabuka and Mahendra Chaudhry in Sydney seemingly marks progress in coalition talks. The SODELPA and Fiji Labour Party leaders believe that
08 May 2017 09:48
Rabuka, Chaudhry Maybe Not Cut Out For Real Unity
SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry cut the cake at a SODELPA fundraising Island Night in Sydney on May 6, 2017. Photo: Facebook

ANALYSIS:The symbolic cutting of the cake jointly by Sitiveni Rabuka and Mahendra Chaudhry in Sydney seemingly marks progress in coalition talks.

The SODELPA and Fiji Labour Party leaders believe that this is the only way they can defeat the FijiFirst Government in next year’s elections.

But can these two former prime ministers – each with their own political baggage – make it work?

While they themselves may have the will to develop the coalition idea, they must sell it and get the support of their supporters.

Mr Chaudhry is a shrewd politician who knew as far back at the run-up to the 2014 general election that the only way to beat the Voreqe Bainimarama juggernaut was to unite the opposition parties. He has not deviated from that position.

The big question is whether Labour Party supporters forget the horrors of 1987 and endorse Mr Rabuka. Will Mr Chaudhry’s powerbase, comprising mainly Indo-Fijian cane farmers and workers, back the idea?

Many remember vividly that when the then National Federation Party leader, Jai Ram Reddy, shook Mr Rabuka’s hands in 1999 to seal a partnership, Indo-Fijian followers of the NFP voted with their feet. They rejected the deal. The NFP was decimated. The Fiji Labour Party was the beneficiary and won the election with a landslide victory and it put Mr Chaudhry in the top job as the country’s first Indo-Fijian PM.

That experience still haunts the NFP today and is the main reason why NFP leader, Biman Prasad, has stayed away from the coalition talks with SODELPA.

This is a political gamble for Mr Chaudhry, whose party was in turn decimated in the 2014 elections. It’s a sign of desperation and he has very few options left after years of his own controversies.

Although he is reinventing himself in the cane fields through his National Farmers Union, indications are that he will struggle to increase his current support.

Mr Rabuka also faces a similar challenge. Will SODELPA members endorse Mr Chaudhry? Do they need Fiji Labour Party?

If Mr Rabuka has to keep the party’s pro-indigenous policies to retain his party’s conservative elements, will Labour members feel comfortable with them?

Early days yet. But the Rabuka-Chaudhry cake cutting could arguably well go the same way as the Rabuka-Reddy handshake.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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