NFP, Labour At It Again

One of the traditional battles in this election is between the National Federation Party and the Fiji Labour Party. Recent campaign exchanges show that the two parties are at it
03 Sep 2014 10:55

One of the traditional battles in this election is between the National Federation Party and the Fiji Labour Party.

Recent campaign exchanges show that the two parties are at it again in the fight for Indo-Fijian voters who traditionally form their powerbase.

FLP president Lavinia Padarath

FLP president Lavinia Padarath

In 1987, the two parties came together and formed a coalition. The Indo-Fijians bloc voted and with a slice of iTaukei votes, the NFP-Labour coalition defeated Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s ruling Alliance Government. Since then they have drifted apart.

The FLP, which was founded by the labour movement, shifted its focus to the canebelt and gradually displaced the NFP as the voice of the canefarmers, dominating the sugarcane growers council.

FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry stamped his mark as a champion of canefarmers. When the election took place in 1999, Mr Chaudhry had the support of the canefarmers and the trade unions.

The NFP helped Mr Chaudhry’s cause by going into partnership with Sitiveni Rabuka’s Soqosoqo ni  Vakavulewa ni Taukei in preparation to form a multi-party government under the 1997 Constitution. The Indo-Fijians rejected the political union because they still saw Mr Rabuka as the man who took away their rights in the 1987 coups. They did not trust him and they voted with their feet.

NFP  and SVT were decimated in the polls. The SVT never recovered from it and died a natural death. The SDL party led by Laisenia Qarase rose from its ashes.

NFP began to limp through to 2006 but not able to regroup and bolster its support in the aftermath of the overthrow of Chaudhry’s FLP government in 2000.

While it came second best to Mr Qarase’s SDL in 2006, FLP  has struggled  to recapture its glory. Defections from the party over differences with Mr Chaudhry’s leadership style plus his conviction for breaching the foreign exchange control rules, have been a major blow to the FLP.

FLP is clutching at straws as it fights to be a credible force in the election. NFP knows that its own rebranding as a multiracial party is not working as it had hoped.

Now it’s back to the old fashioned fight for Indo-Fijian votes. At different times in their political history, the NFP and FLP have had to dig deep to continue as viable parties. It is the Indo-Fijian votes that have carried them through these hard times. This election is one of those hard times.

In the latest FBC TV 4 the Record programme, NFP president and candidate Tupou Draunidalo and FLP election candidate Dr Rohit Kishore  took snipe shots at each. Ms Draunidalo said this election was about record.

She said NFP had a proud record to show. The NFP had the political courage to implement the provisions of the 1997 constitution by going into partnership with Mr Rabuka’s SVT to have a multi-racial and multi-party government, she said. But it was rejected.  She said the very same people that rejected  the 1997 Constitution were now calling for its return.

She questioned why Mr Chaudhry, despite being advised against, joined the Bainimarama government. In doing so, he became part of the coup culture, she said.

Dr Kishore said if that was the case then NFP was just as bad by going into partnership with Mr Rabuka who staged the first coup.

FijiFirst stands in the way of the battle for Indo-Fijian votes. Indo-Fijians, disillusioned by FLP and NFP and buoyed by the security  and progressive non-discriminatory policies of FijiFirst, are defecting to FijiFirst.

NFP recently started directing part of its campaign against FijiFirst to reverse the trend.

If FijiFirst nets more than 50 per cent of the registered Indo-Fijian votes then it puts the party in the driver’s seat. It will be dejavu for FLP and NFP.



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