Analysis

Some SODELPA Members Serious About Appointing New Party Leader

Does this mean that the term of Sitiveni Rabuka as caretaker party leader is coming to an end soon? Or is the Opposition leader interested in going for another crack?
20 Apr 2020 13:06
Some SODELPA Members Serious About Appointing New Party Leader
Opposition Leader in Parliament Sitiveni Rabuka outside Parliament on March 27, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The big question that members are asking is whether Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka will contest for a second term as Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) party leader.

This is after the party had called for expressions of interests for the position.

The post was deemed vacant after SODELPA lost the 2018 General Election.

But because the party won five extra seats in Parliament, some members, particularly from the Cakaudrove-Bua-Macuata bloc, feel strongly that Mr Rabuka should lead the party into the 2022 General Election.

But others do not think so. They feel there should be a new, younger leader with fresh ideas.

They say SODELPA should have won the election if it had followed the strategy that was agreed upon at the beginning. But as the election campaign proceeded the strategy was changed.

As a result, some sitting members lost their seats.

It is one of the underlying issues that led to the court challenge against the party and its executives by a group of disgruntled Suva Constituency members.

The challenge relates to the annual general meeting at Yaroi Village, Savusavu, in June last year.

After the election loss, Mr Rabuka resigned as party leader, but he was asked to carry on as caretaker leader until a new party leader is appointed.

Under the party’s amended constitution, the party leader automatically loses the position if the party loses an election.

It was passed in the wake of the 2014 election loss and then party leader Ro Teimumu Kepa was the first casualty. It forced her to relinquish the role.

Those opposing Mr Rabuka argue that it’s only fair that Mr Rabuka also steps down otherwise it makes a mockery of the constitution.

But that could be circumvented by amending the constitution to delete the provision in question.

Any move like that is expected to cause a fierce debate and the party would not like that two years away from the next election.

Would Rabuka want to contest the next election if he is not party leader? The answer is likely no.

In 2014, he was prepared to contest on a SODELPA ticket if he was party leader. But Ro Teimumu joined the election race late and became leader, blocking Mr Rabuka. She has been critical of Mr Rabuka for leading the 1987 military coups.

If Mr Rabuka fails to retain the party leader role he is likely to join Ro Teimumu and former party president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu who are unlikely to seek re-election.

That could be the time for younger party members to step up.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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