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ANALYSIS: Dynamics Expected to Change in SODELPA After Ro Teimumu Kepa’s Decision

Ro Teimumu Kepa’s decision to stand for this year’s general election will change the dynamics in SODELPA’s preparation. While applications for aspiring candidates have closed, a special dispensation is expected
18 Jan 2018 11:53
ANALYSIS: Dynamics Expected to Change in SODELPA  After Ro Teimumu Kepa’s Decision
From left: Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa and SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka

Ro Teimumu Kepa’s decision to stand for this year’s general election will change the dynamics in SODELPA’s preparation.

While applications for aspiring candidates have closed, a special dispensation is expected to be granted to the Opposition leader to join the party line-up.

When Ro Teimumu relinquished her party leadership in 2015 because of sweeping changes in the SODELPA constitution, it left a sour taste with her and her loyalists.

Her faction, headed by Mick Beddoes (former administrator in the Opposition Office), fought hard to delay the passing of the constitution so that it could be reviewed. When they failed, it triggered Ro Teimumu’s plan to retire.

The move to have her ousted as party leader started with the exposure of the controversial Gaunavinaka Report that was critical of her and the Opposition Office administration. The rival group, led by lawyer Mosese Bulitavu, wanted reforms to improve the party’s chances in the election. It was also not happy with the way Ro Teimumu gave the National Federation Party (NFP) the front seats in Parliament as a junior partner, and the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship to NFP leader Biman Prasad.

The Gaunavinaka Report split the party right down the middle and led to an internal inquiry that eventually pardoned both sides in order to maintain party unity.

Ro Teimumu gradually recovered from that experience and has since conducted herself well as Opposition leader. She even supported her successor, new party leader Sitiveni Rabuka after his election. She has been consolidating her grassroot support in Rewa and the Burebasaga confederacy for SODELPA.

Under the party constitution, if SODELPA loses this election, Mr Rabuka will automatically lose his party leadership role.

That will create the space for her to return as party leader and Opposition leader.

The party leader will be decided by the party selection machinery but the Opposition leader will be decided by the  party’s parliamentary caucus after the general election.

The groundswell of support for Ro Teimumu is likely to push her through the selection process rapidly. Her vanua endorsement is critical which she has got.

In Victoria, Australia, SODELPA supporters there were jumping for joy after they learned from the Fiji Sun that Ro Teimumu had put her retirement plans on hold, heeding the call of the vanua to stand again.

They had earlier written a letter to party HQ wanting Ro Teimumu to stand. But party general secretary Adi Litia Qionibaravi had informed them that Ro Teimumu had announced she would not contest the election and they should respect her wish.

Similar celebrations were happening among SODELPA supporters in the United States.

History will be repeated when her candidacy is officially announced by SODELPA.

In 2014, she was not going to stand in opposition to the 2013 Constitution. But she changed her mind when she was approached in the traditional manner to contest the election by some senior party officials.

She polled more than double the votes scored by SODELPA members who stood from Vanua Levu. She polled 49,485. The Vanua Levu votes totalled about 19,000.

The comparison has been made in the calculation to determine her value in this election for SODELPA.

When she lost the party leadership, the party also lost the balance of power. It shifted to the Vanua Levu bloc which  seems to dominate proceedings in the party.

Her return is going to restore that balance, party insiders say. They are saying: “Welcome back Ro Teimumu.”

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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