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Analysis: National Federation Party MPs likely to be relegated to backbench

The three elected members of the National Federation Party are likely to be relegated to the backbench when seating arrangements in the new Parliament are finalised. In the last Parliament
20 Nov 2018 12:37
Analysis: National Federation Party MPs likely to be relegated to backbench
NFP Members of Parliament

The three elected members of the National Federation Party are likely to be relegated to the backbench when seating arrangements in the new Parliament are finalised.

In the last Parliament they were in the Opposition frontline, even though the NFP was a junior partner.

NFP leader Biman Prasad returns to Parliament, but president Pio Tikoduadua and Lenora Qereqeretabua are new to the NFP bench. They replace Prem Singh and Parmod Chand.

Mr Tikoduadua, in the last Parliament, sat at the Government frontbench as Minister for Infrastructure before his defection.

How the three NFP MPs were frontbenchers in the last Parliament was a bit of mystery.

It is a general convention that under the authority of the Speaker, MPs are allocated their seats on the advice of the parties after negotiations.

Whether this was done previously is not known. It is understood that during a UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) run workshop on seating, the NFP MPs sat at the front bench.

Changes could have been made if SODELPA, the main Opposition party, had raised a complaint with Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni. It is understood because it was not raised it was assumed that it was generally accepted.

But it became a bone of contention for some SODELPA MPs after the 2014 General Election. They strongly felt that as a junior Opposition partner NFP should be relegated to the back.

It was one of the issues that led to a major split in SODELPA. Other issues included the appointment of Mr Prasad as Opposition spokesperson on the Economy. He was later stripped of the title, which was then handed to Aseri Radrodro.

What incensed SODELPA members was the refusal of the NFP MPs to join a walkout when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed Parliament during a visit here in 2015.

SODELPA will not repeat the same mistake, it is understood.

Because it is the main Opposition party it will recommend the seating arrangements to the Speaker. It is understood the NFP MPs will be relegated to the distant backbench.

The last seating arrangement projected a positive image for the NFP because it was in front, especially during those live televised debates.

It is understood that SODELPA wants that exposure now that it has six more seats.

With 21 seats, it is warming up for intense debates in Parliament.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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