SODELPA members holding more rational democratic and liberal views should disassociate themselves from Qarase's remarks before irretrievable damage is done to the party's chances of winning more than a handful of seats in the 17th September elections. See also http://www.fijisun.com.fj/?p=222877
All of the parties opposed to FijiFirst seem to be getting nervous. Labour is blaming cruising police cars for poor attendance at its meetings. FNP's Biman Prasad seeks to widen its audience by challenging Bainimarama to a debate, and PDP seems to think it will get some Taukei votes if it supports a return of the GCC.
But these parties are not part of the main contest that Krishna Datt, I think rightly, says will be fought between SODELPA and FijiFirst. That's why it's surprising to see SODELPA showing signs of panic so early in the election.
It's early days yet and much too early to predict an election winner. It's true Fiji First is attracting big turns outs and the Razor Polls show Bainimarama way out in front of Ro Teimumu and other party leaders, but SODELPA had one good turnout in Lautoka and Ro Teimumu has crept back to the 12% preferred PM status she had three weeks ago.That's a big improvement on her previous 6%. And it's likely the Razor Poll has an urban bias whereas SODELPA is likely to have more support in rural areas. Next week's poll should show how whether the appearance of Australian Rugby League star Lote Tuqiri with Ro Teimumu was much of a voter winner in Lautoka.
Signs of panic
Earlier, SODELPA said it was prepared to form a coalition government with the FLP; it's now widened the invitation to all parties. With the FLP polling so badly, as many of its former supporters have shifted their support to the NFP, PDP and, of course, FijiFirst, it seems likely FLP will not win a single seat. SODELPA needs a coalition with parties more likely to win seats. SODELPA's Laisenia Qarase says they will win at least 26 seats in the 50-seat Parliament, but widening the coalition invitation makes it look like SODELPA is increasingly unsure it will win anything like that number.
To have any chance, they need to be sending out a different message. Repeatedly saying they will reinstate the Great Council of Chiefs and restore God to his "rightful position" in the Constitution is no longer necessary. They've been there and done that, over and over again. Now they need to talk about issues that concern ordinary citizens, not the Taukei elite they also wish to reinstate.
I thought for a moment Qarase was going to offer new insights into what SODELPA would do about education when he spoke to villagers in Kadavu last week, but all he offered was a return to the past with separate tertiary scholarships for Taukei and other races to ensure enough Taukei get into a university (government's "top up" scheme already caters for possible under-representation). I suspect most parents are more concerned about the costs of primary and secondary education where the the Bainimarama government has already helped ease the load.
Qarase's argument that Bainimarama has not made education free seems unlikely to convince many. He is playing with words when he says it's mainly tuition that is free(which it certainly wasn't when he was Prime Minister). To argue that education is not free because parents still have to buy school uniforms and midday lunches must leave some people puzzled. And I've no idea where he got the impression that the USA is the only country in the world that had free education. He should read the gawker.com webite where the the Wall Street Journal said in several states school fees were $200 per child, and likely to be three times that now. Or read the discussion on fees in Maine where some school fees are over $1,000. And so on. You cannot believe all you read, Laisenia. Not even what you write yourself.
If there's any real cause for SOLEPHA to panic it's because they could well be seen to have totally lost the plot unless they find a convincing spokesman soon.
Why Christians won’t use neutral prayer, Qarase tells Nadera group
July 25, 2014 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom
Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says there is absolutely no way that Christians will accept the neutral prayer offered by the Government based on the Secular State.
He was speaking at a Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) campaign meeting at Nadera Methodist Church hall last night.
About 50 people attended.
Mr Qarase said: “We cannot worship a GOD we do not know.” He questioned the implications of the Secular State.
He said if a school teacher wanted to conduct a Christian prayer ‘is he doing something wrong’.
“This is what I am trying to say about this provision of the new Constitution. It brings complication and confusion.”
The Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has said that people were free to practice their own religion provided they do not impose it on others. He said they could pray freely but the Government could not impose any religion on people.
Mr Qarase said the problem with the Bill of Rights was that it was too broad.
“There are more rights in this Constitution compared to the 1997 and 1970.
“However, the biggest problem is that this law provides the Government the authority to limit your rights.”
He gave the Media Decree as an example. He also cited the right to housing. He said people could go to the Government for housing assistance. But it was up to the Government.
Ro Teimumu's telling the military they will be forgiven if they apologize could have been a sign of reconciliation or panic but older soldiers will remember that the Qarase government, of which Ro Teimumu was a member, helped create the conditions that led to the Coup. So it's debatable who should be apologizing to who.
It seems likely that the constantly high polls for Bainimarama as preferred PM and FijiFirst as the preferred party could also be panicking SODELPA.
"I get the shivers up my spine"
The following extract was written by a FijiFirst opponent, Sachin Bairam, in Facebook, It display something of the same panic and confused or contradictory arguing, but it is an important comment for precisely these reasons. At times, he even supports what the Bainimarama government is doing and at other times he says people in earlier governments were just as bad.
Sachin wrote that "Every time I read the Razor Research/Fiji Sun opinion poll, I get shivers in my spine" with Bainimarama leading by such a large margin.
Sachin thinks "the polling data and method of polling is skewed by fraud, mischief and meant to scare the opposition. The pollsters should be cross–examined as to how they arrived at those outrageous numbers."
But the poll "should not be shrugged off as piece of garbage. Voter’s opinion (no matter how rigged the polls are) should be paid attention to in a big way. The present poll shows voters preference towards Frank Bainimarama ...will win big unless the opposing parties can put to the voters some mind-blowing argument why Bainimarama should not be the Prime Minster."
He said he had not heard any good counter- arguments, as yet.
"However, it is not late. If the opposing party leaders have the drive, desire, determination and gumption, they can find few powerful issues and evidence that will create doubt in the minds of the voters not to cast their vote for FijiFirst party. Party leaders- let’s hear those arguments in some detail with specifics supported by clear and cogent evidence. Just by repeating over and over again that Bainimarama got into power by gun- trotting means and illegitimate method will not suffice. That he has has suspended the freedom of speech, press and assembly and so forth of Fiji people will not suffice, either."
"When he ascended to power by crooked method, the people of Fiji were mired in poverty, corruption, crime, unemployment, rising food prices, land and housing problems. Bainimarama stepped up, he quickly straightened the nation’s ship, hit on all eight cylinders and got to work.
"He did everything what his core strengths and beliefs inspired him to do. Granted- he used some abusive and high- handed manner in achieving his goals but so what? Over eighty percent of the voters still like him and think he has done a great job. Yes! Maybe, he has personally benefited in numerous ways during his eight years of reign.
"But think! Name one leader of Fiji who did not benefit from his leadership position? Even late Ratu Mara known as the “father of new Fiji” did things for Lauans at the expense of other villages.
"Hence, what needs to be taken to heart is that polls should give politicians an indication of popular issues and the mood of the voters. It should not be ignored. True leaders should find ways and means to prove that Razor/ Fiji Sun polls are dead wrong. Candidates can do it by persuading the voters that they have better ideas and programs how to run the country. They can do it by demonstrating to the voters that if voted into power, they can do hundred times better than the present dictatorship/oligarchy. If the opposing party leaders can take this approach, persuade the voters that they can work tirelessly for the benefit of the country to improve the standard of living of all the people then we should see a shift in polls.
"I suggest that the opposing parties should get together and pay for an independent polling company (there are many), to conduct an opinion poll every week. It is usually done over the telephone. We will then be able to see what the actual, true result will be. I bet they will not be surprised. The result will be similar to the one being conducted by Razor Research/Fiji Sun. Party leaders - it is up to you to prove that Razor/Fiji Sun poll is completely and absolutely wrong."
Readers will have noted that Sachin said the polls were rigged but an independent poll would show the same result. I think what he means is that the people are not polling as they should.