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Vote2018: Know Your Political Parties: Let’s Talk About Their Issues

As we start the lead up to 2018 General Election, we bring to you the seven political parties registered with the Registrar of Political Parties. We bring to you what
26 Mar 2018 15:52
Vote2018: Know Your Political Parties: Let’s Talk About Their Issues
FijiFirst party leader and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

As we start the lead up to 2018 General Election, we bring to you the seven political parties registered with the Registrar of Political Parties.

We bring to you what the respective parties stand for, what some of their policies are, and what are the changes they intend to make in the country.

FijiFirst

FijiFirst is leading the charge after having won the 2014 General Election and securing 64 per cent of the seats in Parliament (32 out of 50 seats). The ruling party’s policies such as free education/free bus fare, and incentives to the sugar industry have been popular.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who is the party leader, and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is the party general secretary, are a formidable team.

FijiFirst general secretary and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

FijiFirst general secretary and
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Their platform will be to expound on their existing policies.

As seen in the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme, for example, in the past four years, changes have been made to it to suit students better.

They will no doubt continue with their rural electrification programme, ensure more people get proper land leases, get more Fijians in schools and reduce unemployment. Unemployment has been one of the lowest in recent years.

Their track record in the strong economic growth has been lauded by international institutes such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

FijiFirst also made the social welfare scheme better and more people are able to access it today compared with 10 years ago. Their policy to keep the Government retirement age to 55 years has been well thought out. This allows for younger graduates to get jobs within the civil service.

One of the most controversial reforms the Bainimarama Government undertook was at the Fiji National Provident Fund.

But years after, Fijians have seen how it is benefiting the hundreds of thousands of young FNPF members.

The strong performance of the State-Owned Enterprises is also something the Government can boast about.

Undertaking the much needed civil service reform has needed political will and strong leadership.

But the improvement in service delivery to Fijians now is a testament to how the reform is doing.

Barring the teething problems and outright resistance to it, the reform has set a benchmark in service delivery.

SODELPA

SODELPA, which holds 15 out of 18 Opposition seats, has policies which are in stark contrast to FijiFirst.

They have championed the reintroduction of the Great Council of Chiefs whose chairman at one stage was SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka. They intend to challenge and undo most of the changes made by the FijiFirst Government.

SODELPA party leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

SODELPA party leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

They intend to do away with TELS and reintroduce scholarships.

But the detail of their scholarship scheme is yet to be made public.

Whether it will be race-based, how will they fund their idea of making tertiary education free and at what cost, is yet to be finalised.

Their internal bickering has not helped them and their decision to launch parts of their manifesto in Sydney has also raised eyebrows. They plan to do away with the secular state and relook at the role Christianity plays in the country.

This, too, has been met with scepticism as well.

National Federation Party

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad.

National Federation Party leader
Biman Prasad.

National Federation Party secured three seats in Opposition.

They saw the departure of former president Tupou Draunidalo from the Party. She embarked on a journey to register another political party – proposed HOPE.

NFP’s early leaders such as A D Patel, S M Koya, Jai Ram Reddy were all in favour of all Fijian citizens to identify as Fijians.

NFP, through their leader Biman Prasad, has often seen to be championing media freedom. At every major NFP rally or event, Mr Prasad has mentioned his desire to see a free media who also ask NFP the hard questions.  But he has not always reacted well and appears to favour one newspaper.

They have already announced more candidates for the general election than any other Party and have also announced more policies compared to SODELPA.

They have already been marred by allegations of rape against one provisional candidate – Romanu Tikotikoca, who has since withdrawn his candidacy.

The other issue which people are now raising questions is whether their MP and provisional candidate Parmod Chand has uttered comments bordering on communal antagonism against the Muslim community.

Four people have come out and spoken on the record about comments to the effect that Muslims will take over Fiji, allegedly attributed to Mr Chand.

NFP has launched its own investigations into this but nothing has so far come forward from the Party on the outcome of the allegations.

NFP has been advocating for $100 per tonne for cane price, increase the budget to cater for dialysis, $5 minimum wage rate, increasing the retirement age to 60 years for civil servants. It has not detailed how this will be funded.

Fiji Labour Party

Fiji Labour Party parliamentary leader Aman Ravindra Singh.

Fiji Labour Party parliamentary leader
Aman Ravindra Singh.

If there is one Party that history has not been kind to, it is Fiji Labour Party. But, lawyer Aman Ravindra Singh, who is also their Parliamentary leader hopes to change that. An outspoken critic on social media, Mr Singh is someone who does not mince his words, although he has not always backed his statements with facts. He is their parliamentary leader, while Mahendra Chaudhry continues to wear the hat of party leader.

They are yet to announce any policies or candidates for 2018.

Unity Fiji Party

Unity Fiji Party is the new kid on the block. They managed to get their party registered quicker than others who are still struggling with getting the required signatures.

But the inclusion of Raman Velji raised a few eyebrows from followers of politics in Fiji. They wondered about his American claims.

Fiji United Freedom Party

Fiji United Freedom Party led by Jagath Karunaratne, a Sri Lankan who acquired Fijian citizenship, has not been very active.

They do not have a general secretary as yet and will be holding a meeting this Wednesday after which they hope to announce their intentions for the 2018 General Election.

Peoples Democratic Party

Peoples Democratic Party fell apart when its founding members sided with other political parties.

They are still a registered party to go into the 2018 General Elections.

FLP Parliamentary Leader Mr Singh is still the party’s registered officer with the Fijian Elections Office. Edited by Mohammed Zulfikar

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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