Analysis: Coalition Noise Grows Louder, But It’s Merely A Perception

As the clamour for a coalition of opposition parties grows louder, it’s all noise. It lacks substance and credibility. Indications are that it seems unlikely to gain traction. That the
24 May 2017 15:34
Analysis: Coalition Noise Grows Louder, But It’s Merely A Perception

As the clamour for a coalition of opposition parties grows louder, it’s all noise.

It lacks substance and credibility. Indications are that it seems unlikely to gain traction.

That the move is gaining momentum is merely a perception.

In fact it is wallowing in murky waters because the concept is fraught with complications.

It is a double-edged sword for the individual political parties whose policies may not necessarily agree.

The coalition bid with the sole purpose of toppling the FijiFirst Government is a political gamble that could backfire on the individual parties, particularly SODELPA.

The National Federation Party saw the red light in 2014 and decided to fight the general election on its own.

It decided to protect its own interest first and it paid dividend. It won three seats. In the 1999 general election, the NFP was annihilated when it partnered Sitiveni Rabuka’s SVT. It has obviously learned from that experience.

The Fiji Labour Party and the People’s Democratic Party are rival parties that have their origins in the labour movement. They should be one party, but Felix Anthony, former PDP leader, broke away and formed PDP because he disagreed with FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry’s leadership style.

PDP now has Lynda Tabuya as new leader and she has promoted the coalition.

The prospect that a pre-election coalition may be doomed to fail is not only based on the parties’ different policies. It is also based on the fact that there is only one constituency.

In the old electoral setup there were several constituencies, some communal and others national or cross-voting. Under it, coalition members can decide not to field a candidate, but tell their members to vote for one coalition candidate.

It is difficult to see how this will work in a one constituency electorate.

It is almost certain that SODELPA supporters will only vote for their party candidates because they want many of their candidates in Parliament. That is likely to also happen with other parties.

Because votes are not transferrable from one party to another, the only other way is amalgamate all the parties under one banner and register it as one party with one symbol. Will individual parties become just constituent groups?

But that too is fraught with all kinds of complications.

The NFP has been smart. It will only consider a working arrangement with other parties after the election as it currently exists with SODELPA in Parliament.

It believes that its prospects for 2018 are better with the high profile signings of former FijiFirst Infrastructure minister Pio Tikoduadua and former ambassador and Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Robin Nair.

The unknown force in this election at this stage is the combination of proposed HOPE and proposed Unity Fiji.

Individually, they will split votes if they contest the election. Both are hoping they will pick up undecided voters and dissidents from the other parties.

If they win seats they are unlikely to join forces with the other parties. Proposed HOPE’s pioneers broke away from SODELPA so they will stay away from their former party.

Proposed Unity Fiji backers want a fresh start and do not want to be associated with any of the existing parties.  They are professionals and intellectuals who are disillusioned by the current political climate.

They say the quality of political debate and public discourses on national issues is not acceptable and would not help move the country forward.  Their ground survey reveal, according to them, that ordinary people are being marginalised and are complaining.

The people’s issues, they claim, are not being addressed.

They claim they have done their research with ordinary people who they claim are not satisfied with what’s happening on the ground. Ideologically, they are focusing on the principles of inclusiveness, good governance, accountability and transparency.

Meanwhile, eight political parties could be lining up to contest the 2018 general election.

That’s if  proposed HOPE and proposed Unity Fiji succeed in each collecting 5000 signatures and getting registered.

The eight are: FijiFirst, SODELPA, National Federation Party, Fiji Labour Party, People’s Democratic Party, Fiji United Freedom Party, proposed HOPE and proposed Unity Fiji.

It is understood that the two proposed parties have discovered that registering a party is a long painstaking process and it is not as easy as it may sound.

The exercise involves verifying the signatures to ensure that the voters have not registered for another party.

If they do, they have to formally resign from that party before they can be formally accepted by the new proposed party.

Recently 151 SODELPA members resigned from the party to join what is believed to be the proposed Unity Fiji.

Except for the NFP, the other Opposition parties are talking up a coalition in a bid to defeat the FijiFirst Government.  There is cautious optimism among partners of the proposed coalition. But what they still have to do is work out the details. That is their biggest challenge.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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