ANU experts comment on Fiji election

17 September 2014

Fiji has held its first elections since a military takeover eight years ago.

Opinion polls show interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama's Fiji First party with a strong lead. Opposition parties have raised concerns about the poll with accusations of intimidation and a lack of media coverage in the lead up to election day.

A number of leading ANU experts on Fiji gave their thoughts on the issues ahead of the election.

Professor Brij Lal
School of Culture, History and Language
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

"Frank Bainimarama has said over and over again that he intends to win all 50 seats. That is impossible in this kind of scenario. This system is engineered for multiparty coalition government. You don't have a majority party winning all of the seats. Or a majority of the seats. So whatever he says, a coalition government or a multi-party government is very much on the cards.
"If Bainimarama loses, he is likely to say 'All that we have done over these years, these things are now in jeopardy. My mission is not complete, so I will stay on'. Under the 2013 Constitution, the military has the guardian role over the Constitution. They are charged with protecting the Constitution and the country as a whole. As such, any political parties that wanted to review the Constitution wouldn't be able to do so with ease. What the military will simply say is that under this Constitution, we are not constitutionally obliged to act, because we want to protect this constitution. It was a 'readymade' situation for military intervention."

Dr Stewart Firth
Research Fellow, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

"Bainimarama has not called this election in order to lose it. In a television interview in July, he said 'a lot of people in Fiji don't want this election. They want a strong decisive leader' - a sentiment that perhaps best reflects his opinion.

"He is nevertheless responding to repeated calls from the international community for Fiji to return to democracy, and sees his expected victory as a way of boosting personal legitimacy by gaining a democratic imprimatur. Behind him he has the unwavering and enthusiastic support of the Fiji Sun newspaper, which acts as a government mouthpiece."

Dr Priya Chattier
Pacific Research Fellow, State Society and Governance in Melanesia Program
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

"A feature of Fiji's 2014 election, the first since the military takeover eight years ago, is that there are more women contesting the poll than the last vote in 2006. It will be interesting to see how 'one person-one vote' translates into voter preferences for female candidates over male candidates. 2014 could mark the year when we not only witness a change in the way Fiji is ruled, but the start of real change when it comes to who rules."