Opinion

Analysis : Will Sodelpa Modify Its Policies Or Stick With Old 2014 Platform

SODELPA has not publicly clarified yet whether it will modify its 2014  general election policies or continue with them. Until it does that, the undecided will not be able to
11 Aug 2016 09:01
Analysis : Will Sodelpa Modify Its Policies Or Stick With Old 2014 Platform

SODELPA has not publicly clarified yet whether it will modify its 2014  general election policies or continue with them.

Until it does that, the undecided will not be able to choose whether they will support new party leader Sitiveni Rabuka and the party in the 2018 general election.

Policies that anchored the SODELPA Party election platform in 2014 were exclusively pro-indigenous. There was very little mention of other races. When they are made to stand against the all inclusive and non-discriminatory provisions of the Constitutions they look weak and take on a racist spin. SODELPA had vehemently defended its policies saying they are legitimate and genuine indigenous issues but not racist in nature.

That’s for the voters to decide. If those policies can translate to better housing, better education, better roads, better health services, more jobs and better standard of living then they might warm towards them. If they are mere political ideologies without any tangible evidence of potential benefits, voters will not be interested.

Mr Rabuka has virtually agreed that his arch rival Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has the right formula. He recognises that Mr Bainimarama has set the benchmark and SODELPA plus other Opposition parties have to do better than that to displace FijiFirst.

Mr Bainimarama is in command with an unassailable lead in the race for 2018. There is no letup in the intensity and momentum of the implementation of his Government’s development plans since 2014, from infrastructure development to assistance in a broad spectrum of sectors including health, education, land and agriculture, big and small businesses, sports and social welfare.

SODELPA would have to do more than this and capitalise on any chinks in the FijiFirst armour. That means it would have to identify any Government’s weaknesses and use them to consolidate its position.

A recent party statement reveals that SODELPA thinks the FijiFirst Government is not governing the country in the right way.

It does not explain what that means. An analysis of other statements by its members of Parliament show that they are not happy that overtures by the Opposition for a bipartisan approach to dealing with national issues have been ignored by Mr Bainimarama. He is not morally or constitutionally required to be seeking the views of the Opposition. His party has the people’s mandate to govern alone. He is doing a fine job so far so the need for bipartisan approach is negligible.

So if SODELPA thinks that it will govern with a bipartisan approach in case it becomes government, it will be its prerogative. But that will not be enough to gain more votes for SODELPA because governance is not high on the list of priorities for ordinary people. Their priorities are medical, food, housing, education, jobs etc. These are the basic bread and butter issues.

What will get people talking about SODELPA is when it releases its manifesto for the 2018 election. It will show whether it has moved towards the same direction as FijiFirst or stick to the same old policies.

Its biggest challenge is how it can incorporate the indigenous advocacy component into a multiracial platform. Mr Rabuka has alluded to the concept of different races working together for the national interest. SODELPA can only attract other races if it broadens its policies to have a wide appeal. Will this move dilute the predominant iTaukei following which has been the powerbase of SODELPA? It may require a major policy shift and the rebranding of the party.

The reality is that SODELPA or any other political party cannot win an election on the basis of support from one ethnic group only.

Mr Rabuka has been working quietly consolidating grassroots support. He has some remnants of Indo-Fijian support from the Jai Ram Reddy (National Federation Party) days when his SVT Party had teamed up with the NFP.

But most of his support will come from iTaukei. It’s for this reason that he is also tapping into his church connections with the Methodist Church whose membership is predominantly iTaukei.

He has an advantage because he is a lay preacher and the Methodist Church allows lay preachers to preach from any political persuasion because they are not paid.

Preachers are generally respected and revered by the congregations. They can wield a lot of influence and power among the members of the church.

Mr Rabuka says he cannot understand why this is an issue because we live in a secular state which guarantees freedom of religion.

The line between church and politics is blurred and ethical issues are matters of debate.

For SODELPA the way forward will be a lot clearer once its policies are spelt out.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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