Fiji opposition parties agree to form government, ending Bainimarama’s 16-year rule

Stephen Wright
Fiji opposition parties agree to form government, ending Bainimarama’s 16-year rule Workers and supporters of Fiji’s People’s Alliance Party celebrate after striking a deal with the Social Democratic Liberal Party and the National Federation Party to form the Pacific island country’s next government, in Suva on Dec. 20, 2022.
Saeed Khan/AFP

Three Fijian opposition parties said Tuesday they had agreed to form a coalition government, ending the 16-year rule of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who came to power in a 2006 coup.

Sitiveni Rabuka, also a former coup leader and head of the largest party in the coalition, is set to be Fiji’s next prime minister.

At a press conference, Rabuka congratulated Fijians for voting for change and thanked Bainimarama and his cabinet for their service to Fiji.

“It’s never easy to run a government,” he said. “I hope they will accept the result.”

There was no immediate comment from Bainimarama or his Fiji First Party.

None of the three highest polling political parties won an outright majority in Fiji’s Dec. 14 election, which made the Christian and indigenous Social Democratic Liberal Party, with its 5.1% share of the vote, the election kingmaker.

Outside the headquarters of Rabuka’s People’s Alliance Party in Fiji’s capital Suva, people whooped and cheered after hearing the coalition government news, video posted online showed.

Fiji has had four coups since independence in 1970, partly a legacy of British colonial policies that restricted the economic activities of indigenous Fijians while bringing tens of thousands of indentured laborers from India in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The first two coups in 1987 were led by Rabuka, an indigenous Fijian nationalist, and highlighted the divisions that had developed in Fiji over decades. 

The coups followed the election defeat of a predominantly indigenous Fijian political party and are remembered as a retributive and traumatic period by many Indian Fijians.

Fiji First’s share of the vote in last week’s election slumped to 42.6% from 50% in 2018. People’s Alliance secured 35.8% and the National Federation Party allied with it got 8.9%.

Bainimarama abolished a race-based voting system following his 2006 coup and Fiji First has commanded support from indigenous and Indian Fijians.

Recently the party’s popularity has been challenged by the economic fallout of COVID-19 in tourism-reliant Fiji, high inflation and aggressive legal tactics against opposition parties.


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