Checkpoint, RNZ, Auckland, November 19, 2018
Fiji’s re-elected Prime Minister has blamed the torrential rain on election day for his significant drop in support.
Frank Bainimarama received around 130,000 individual votes, compared to over 200,000 at the last election in 2014.
The leader of the 2006 coup was in Auckland over the weekend for his brother’s funeral, and said he still had a mandate in Fiji.
“My party has won the confidence of the people of Fiji,” he said.
“There were a lot of people that didn’t turn up because of the weather so I can understand that.”
Booths washed out
Several polling booths were washed out due to Wednesday’s rain, however those who missed out had another chance to vote on Saturday.
Mr Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party gained 50.02% of the vote at this election, compared to 59% in 2014. It means that his Party has lost five seats in the 51-seat Parliament, and its majority reduced to just three seats.
Mr Bainimarama’s main rival at the election was the original coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, who was running for the SODELPA Party. It has 21 seats, though Mr Rabuka’s personal support was around half the Prime Minister’s haul of votes.
Speaking at Auckland Airport this morning, Mr Bainimarama said that he welcomed the strengthened opposition.
Healthy Opposition good
“It’s always good for any country to have a healthy opposition. New Zealand is the same, Australia is the same, Fiji is no different,” he said.
When challenged about the treatment that some opposition MPs have received in Fiji in the last term of parliament, he defended his government and said there would be bipartisan work on several issues.
“We have always done that, that has never stopped,” he said.
The government used its majority in the House to suspend three opposition MPs in the previous term.
When asked what the main concerns of Fijians were after the election, he responded, “Well nothing really. We have our own policies, we have our manifesto out, so we’ll go with that.”
Just as in 2014, Frank Bainimarama did the heavy lifting for his Party, gaining just enough votes to keep the majority in Parliament, but further down the FijiFirst Party list, several notable MPs were punished by the electorate such as former Education Minister and Minister for Waterways Mahendra Reddy.
In comparison, SODELPA didn’t have the following that the Prime Minister commands around the country, but had broader support for its individual MPs.
It’s prompted speculation about the future of FijiFirst once Frank Bainimarama moves on from politics, but he said he wasn’t concerned.
“No, I’ll be here until I decide otherwise,” he said.
The overall voting turnout this year was 72%, down from 84% in 2014.
SODEPLA’s minor Party partner, the National Federation Party, saw no change in result, winning three seats.
Frank Bainimarama’s brother, Ratu Sevanaia Laua Bainimarama, a jazz musician living in the Bay of Islands, died in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the day before the election, aged 61.
The swift visit began late on Friday night, with the Prime Minister and his wife, Maria, heading home to Suva early on Monday.
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