After all the votes were counted in Fiji this week, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was elected to a second four-year term, but his FijiFirst party barely cleared the 50 percent mark.
The final tally gave FijiFirst 50.02 percent of the vote – that’s down from almost 60 percent four years ago. Prime Minister Bainimarama received far and away the largest number of votes of any single candidate. Sodelpa, the Social Democratic Liberal Party, finished second with just under forty percent, The National Federation Party got 7.38 percent, three smaller parties failed to clear the five percent threshold needed to win seats in parliament.
This is just the second election since a sequence of military coups in Fiji. Then Commodore Bainimarama seized power in 2006, and ruled by decree until the elections of 2014. His critics say that he continues to use authoritarian methods.
Soldelpa leader Sitiveni Rabuka is himself a former military strongman who lead two coups in 1987. While opposition parties complained of irregularities, an interim report by outside observers found the election transparent and credible and concluded that the people of Fiji were able to vote freely. The new parliament will include ten women, almost 20 percent of the total.
Biman Prasad of the National Federation Party told RNZ Pacific that he did not expect the government’s losses will alter its strong-arm methods in parliament. Professor Vijay Naidu of the University of the South Pacific agreed that Fiji First rode roughshod over the opposition in the past, but says he now expects a stronger and more effective opposition.