NEWS

A Two-Party Race

As we head down the home stretch, it looks like it’s going to be a two-party race. With 15 days to go before the country’s first truly democratic elections. FijiFirst
01 Sep 2014 07:35
A Two-Party Race
Semi Kunatani.

As we head down the home stretch, it looks like it’s going to be a two-party race.

With 15 days to go before the country’s first truly democratic elections. FijiFirst is comfortably leading the race.

But SODELPA in the last two weeks has made a concerted push to narrow the gap. Leader Ro Teimumu now sits on 22 per cent of those polled in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes – the first time she has gone over 20.

Since the Razor Research/Fiji Sun weekly poll started 27 weeks ago, FijiFirst leader Voreqe Bainimarama has consistently led the field, even before his party was launched. Mr Bainimarama’s rating has moved up and down between a low of 70 and a high of 84.

The fluctuations reflect the changing mood among the registered voters especially the undecided or swing voters. At the moment, FijiFirst can assume that between 60 and 70 per cent of the registered voters are fully converted and committed to its cause.

In the past two weeks, SODELPA has gained inroads into FijiFirst territory by changing its campaign strategy. It has dicovered that it cannot match FijiFirst in the public and community hall rallies. FijiFirst is well organised and operates with the help of a big army of volunteers.

It is stressing its proven record of development for all, security, improving economy and a stable new Fiji where all are equal without discrimination or corruption. SODELPA is focusing on a multi-media platform that includes social media, flyers and distributing video discs.

The disc, party strategists think, has been very effective. With SODELPA’s discriminatory pro-iTaukei policies, their target is to secure as many iTaukei votes as possible. The party message on land, return of the Great Council of Chiefs, different common identity and secular state can be easily lost or questioned in a big meeting.

But in a private home with four to six people listening and no other competing sounds, the message can be easily understood. The listeners can always rewind if they do not understand a portion. In a village setting, this would be ideal. The disc can be passed from house to house.

SODELPA is desperate and is trying everything that is available to win votes. It knows that unless it secures a majority of the iTaukei votes, it’s chances are pretty slim. It cannot count on other races because of its discriminatory and racial policies.

Ro Teimumu has been trying to convince voters that there is nothing racial and racist in championing indigenous interests, calling for the return of the Great Council of Chiefs and objection to the common name Fijian.

It will be just like before 2006 where everyone co-existed peacefully since independence in 1970, she claims. But those who were around in 1987 remember that it was the racist indigenous agenda that gave rise to the Taukei Movement which led the street demonstrations that prompted Sitiveni Rabuka’s military coup. It was also the racist indigenous agenda that led to George Speight’s coup in 2000.

In both coups, members of the Great Council of Chiefs were involved in negotiations. Many ordinary iTaukei did not see any benefits from those coups. They were used as political pawns in a struggle to satisfy the interests of a select few and the elite more than the common iTaukei hopes and aspirations. Those who felt exploited and disillusioned in the two coups have joined the FijiFirst movement.

These are the iTaukei that Ro Teimumu is targetting in her campaign to stem the flow and reverse the trend. Her success will be measured by the final two weeks. She needs to be polling 30 plus per cent to be a major threat to Mr Bainimarama.

The National Federation Party, the Fiji Labour Party and the People’s Democratic Party have not gained much traction. Their manifestos share basically the same sentiments although there are variations in their policies. FLP has lost a lot of its grassroot Indo-Fijian support to FijiFirst, NFP and PDP.

FijiFirst’s broader base is likely to attract more iTaukei and Indo Fijian votes. In the battle for the iTaukei votes, its main rival is SODELPA.

In the campaign for Indo-Fijian votes the main fight will be fought between FijiFirst and NFP which is beginning to recapture those areas held by Labour. But the NFP is facing increasing questions about its sitting-on-the-fence attitude on national identity, the return of the Great Council of Chiefs and a partnership with SODELPA.

The other smaller parties and independents will have a negligible impact on the final results.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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