Fiji’s main opposition parties, led by Sitiveni Rabuka, have formed a coalition to oust Frank Bainimarama’s FijiFirst government.
There were jubilant scenes in Suva overnight as the kingmaker in Fiji’s general election, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) declared it was partnering with the People’s Alliance (PA) and the National Federation Party (NFP) to form a new coalition government to end FijiFirst’s eight-year reign.
The decision was made in a secret ballot by Sodelpa’s 30-member management board – 16 voted in favour of the PA-NFP alliance and 14 for FijiFirst – after three days of intense negotiations.
The result marks the end of an era – 16 years of political dominance by the coup leader turned prime minister Bainimarama.
Sodelpa’s chief negotiator, Anare Jale, said their decision to side with PA-NFP had not been taken lightly and they had given full consideration to the offers from all parties.
“It has taken days to decide on the way forward for the party,” Jale said.
“Especially the choice of the partner for whom we are going to form a coalition with to form government.”
Sodelpa’s kingmaker position came about after a contentious national election count which saw PA leader Sitiveni Rabuka calling into question the integrity of the electoral system.
But now in the driving seat, Rabuka said it’s water under the bridge.
“We thank the Electoral Commission, although we had some difficulties with them in the beginning. But now let it roll over. I’m sure we can all turn our back on that and work together,” Rabuka said.
Rabuka returns as Fiji’s leader
The new coalition has selected Rabuka to be prime minister.
He will be elected during the first sitting of of the new parliament on Wednesday, confirmed by NFP leader, Biman Prasad.
“Official communication will be with sent to his Excellency the President, confirming that the PA-NFP-Sodelpa government is ready to lead under the new prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka,” Prasad said.
The coalition leaders said they were pleased to be able to give the people of Fiji this early Christmas present – a strong and united coalition government.
“I thank the outgoing government and the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and his FijiFirst party,” Rabuka said.
“The people have spoken. People have chosen. A new way, a new path a new government.
“We promise the people of Fiji a new era will be starting as the new government takes on the power of this country.”
The outgoing prime minister Frank Bainimarama has yet to concede the elections.
RNZ Pacific has contacted his FijiFirst party.
There have been no updates on the party’s Facebook page for four days.