Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has lost his parliamentary majority with the election’s final ballot count being returned.
The former opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) is in negotiations with the FijiFirst government and People’s Alliance over which it will support with its balance of power.
Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party is the largest single party with 42.5% of the vote while People’s Alliance and the National Federation Party – which have already said they would join forces – sit at 36% and 9%respectively.
Sodelpa holds just over 5% of the vote. The other five political parties failed to clear the 5% threshold needed to get a member elected to the expanded 55-member parliament.
Sodelpa’s general secretary, Lenaitasi Duru, said on Sunday it would enter the second round of negotiations with both parties.
Duru said their priority Indigenous and education policies were among those non-negotiable.
The party campaigned on free tertiary education and allocating $159m a year for Indigenous affairs, a more than tenfold increase in the government’s budget allocation for the ministry this financial year.
The general secretary said it was not hypocritical for the party to be negotiating with the government after running on a “time for change” platform.
“It’s not hypocritical if you bring about that change,” he said.
Duru said the party was sitting in the middle and waiting on the respective offers to decide what’s best for the nation.
But he was quoted in local media firing back at People’s Alliance deputy Lynda Tabuya for calling Sodelpa a “haunted house” after she jumped ship following the leadership spill.
“When she left she took the horror with her. We are no longer haunted, we are ready to form the next government,” Duru was quoted as saying by the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday.
“Some people went out their way to damage, destroy and destruct the party but we are still standing.”
Should Sodelpa side with People’s Alliance, it would mark the end of Bainimarama’s nearly 16 years in power after taking control via a coup in 2006 and becoming prime minister the following year.
The People’s Alliance leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, himself a former coup leader turned prime minister, previously led Sodelpa to the 2018 election.
He carved Bainimarama’s majority down to 50.02 per cent and drew an almost 12% swing towards the party in the process.
Rabuka was then ousted by current leader Viliame Gavoka, leading to him establishing the People’s Alliance which drew nine additional members across.
Rabuka and three other opposition parties have been vocally alleging problems with the voting system and said they had lost faith in the Fijian Elections Office after falling behind.
The Multinational Observer Group said it has not observed “any significant irregularities or issues during pre-polling, postal voting or election day voting”.
But Rabuka and leaders from three other opposition parties continue to allege voting irregularities and possible fraud.
The supervisor of elections, Mohammed Saneem, accused the opposition parties of spouting conspiracy theories about the election without any evidence and said they were attempting to discredit the election before the final results had been tallied.
“I would like to urge everybody to have the patience for the results data entry to complete,” he said.
“Once you have the results, then you go around doing whatever you want to do. We have no worries about that.
“If someone is not happy with the result, there is a legal process that follows.”