Political Round Up Saturday 5 July
|Voter education poster|
- Salaries - campaigns - manifestos - accusations of racism
- Land warning - wooing the elderly - new parties - corruption - after the elections
- Latest political poll - political will to make things happen
FFP will start its election campaign in the coming week, though some would claim its started a long time ago with the PM not losing an opportunity to win votes in every classroom and telecentre opening speech.
SODELPA is also likely to make its manifesto public during the week, and that should redress some of the ethnic-leaning concerns Ro Teimumu expressed in her AGM speech at Lami last week..
She is, of course, correct, in saying it will be a long time before many people stop voting on ethnic lines but she could have set the ball rolling had she paid more attention to issues affecting all Fijians and not just Taukei. Hopefully, the SODELPA manifesto will provide detailed guidelines on what the party will do on unemployment and the cost of living if it is elected to government in September, and not limit itself to criticising the Bainimarama government on what it has and has not done.
Another ethnic-related incident was the interpretation put on the PM's retort to NFP leader Dr Biman Prasad that if it wasn't for him you, an Indian, wouldn't be standing there (or something similar). Biman and others took this as evidence of underlying racism; I thought it a reasonable prediction of might have happened to Indo-Fijians had the previous government's policies not been halted by the 2006 Coup.
For my part, I see no racism in the Bainimarama government's policies. To the contrary, much good work has been done in the areas of education, common citizenship and the abolition of ethnic constituencies. But I'm disappointed more has not been done to redress ethnic imbalances in the civil service, police and military.
In a related matter, the Citizen's Constitutional Forum issued a warning during the week that the controversial issue of Taukei land ownership and use should be calmly discussed by all concerned, and not be used to instill fear into Taukei landowners,
I thought the advice both wise and timely, but doubt those who have used the race-land cards in the past will listen. However false and damaging to national unity the accusation of a government or Indian "land grab" may be, it wins votes among among the uneducated, and SODELPA has no intention of losing their vote.
Both FFP and NFP wooed the elderly during the week. Government announced an increase in pensions from $30 to $50 a week early next year payable to those over 70 with no other income. The NFP said it would restore the retirement age to 55 (from 60) and provide retirees who had been forced to retire earlier than they had wished with "appropriate compensation."
Two "new" parties hope to register soon: Jagath Karunaratne's United Freedom Party that had its initial attempt declined, and the previously registered One Fiji party. Jone Dakuvula wants the Court to reconsider its ruling on the deregistration of the party.
I am not sure whether the proliferation of small parties is a "good" thing for democracy in Fiji. Their chances of winning a seat is poor. They require at least 5% of total votes. The real contest will be between FFP and SODELPA, and their possible running mates. Voters should be informed by the smaller parties which of the bigger parties they would be prepared to support should they win a seat in Parliament. Voters should also be aware that a vote for the smaller parties could well be a vote thrown away.
The guilty verdict on former general manager of the NLTB (now)iTaukei Land Trust Board, Kalivati Bakani, on five counts of abuse of office reminds us it will take some time to root out old cases of corruption. He admitted to using extinct mataqali funds and government grants without the Board's approval to finance a private company.
The warning about what happens after the elections by Reserve Bank Deputy Governor, Arif Ali, was also timely. He said a stable government was essential for the economy, and stability meant that if a party other than FFP became government it should not reversing present government policies and incentives too soon because that would affect business confidence and investment.
The latest Fiji Sun/Razor Research poll (Week 19, 28 June) produced some surprises, and I'm unsure of the cause. They could represent the beginning of new trends, or simply be the result of a changed sample which seems the more likely reason given that those registered to vote flipped from 75% the previous week to 63%. I wonder if the pollsters ask those questioned whether they are old enough to vote.
Voqere Bainimarama retained his high placing (73%) as preferred Prime Minister. Ro Teimumu and "someone else" came a distant equal seconds on 7%, followed by Biman Prasad (6%), Mahendra Chaudhry (4%) and Felix Anthony (3%). But FijiFirst dropped from 74% to 59% as preferred political party and SODELPA from 12 to 8%. The other parties made small gains (FLP and PDP 5 from 3%, , and NFP from 5 to 8%). The largest drop, that adds some credibility to my query about sample change is that those who did not know or were unsure increased from 4 to 15%.
Opinions were almost equally divided on whether the coalition between FLP and SODELPA would last. 55% said Yes and 45% No.
One constant in the polls is the personal popularity of the PM. The possible reason comes from an unlikely source, Tongan politician and a founding member of the Tonga Pro-Democracy Movement 'Akilisi Pohiva: Bainimarama has the political will to make things happen.
“He has been able to make things happen," he said, "and take development to the people, which had not happened for years. He had the will to make things happen, to make reality of things that were planned over the years.”
The Bainimarama-Government came into power through the military takeover but "the fact remains that positive changes, especially in infrastructure development in rural areas plus services including free education, senior citizens’ allowances for monthly shopping and bus fare concessions, have been made."
"Every government needs to have the political will to implement positive changes that will help a country move forward...now and then governments need a push to make things happen", he said. Click here for the full article.