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“Let’s pull together for once: the people have spoken” The Fiji Times, 19 May 2006

17/03/2012
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The 2006 General Elections results are out.  The SDL Party with the largest number of seats in Parliament, will form government with Qarase as Prime Minister.

There may be the court case or two, as always.  A seat or two may change hands.

But the people have spoken, and the results are clear.

The majority indigenous Fijian people have solidified their support behind the SDL party which won 81% of  Fijian votes, and 45% of all votes.

The now minority Indo-Fijian people have solidified their support behind the FLP, which won 81% of their votes, but 38% of all votes.

Neither party has any great support from the other ethnic groups, although the FLP had slightly more of indigenous Fijian votes (6%), than the SDL did of the Indo-Fijian votes (3%).

But the SDL has MPs drawn from all the ethnic groups and he is in a good position to form a “multi-ethnic” Cabinet, as well as the “multi-party” cabinet possible under the Constitution.

“No-show” of the Minor Parties

   The minor parties, whether moderate or extreme, came to the Elections Ball, but few were dancing with them).

The historically old National Federation Party received 13% of Indo-Fijian communal votes and 6% of all votes, but failed to win any seat (no surprise).

PANU, which had allied itself to the FLP, saw its influence significantly reduced in the west, and won no seats.

The Nationalist Tako Lavo Party received less than 1% of the votes, although its leader picked up more than a thousand votes.

The National Alliance Party, despite its strong media presence over the last year or so, won only 2% of the indigenous Fijian votes.  It also won 2% of the Indo-Fijian votes, but most of that was probably from the NFP.

The UPP won 2 seats but only in the small General constituencies reserved for them.

   Reduced impact of preferences

   In the 2001 elections, there were 29 seats decided by preferences.

In the 2006 Elections, with the two major ethnic groups voting in larger blocks, there were only  11 seats decided on preferences.

None of the Fijian or Indo-Fijian communal seats were won on preference.

Of the 9 Open seats, SDL won 4 and FLP won 5 on preference votes.

While SDL before the elections judged NFP preferences quite harshly, NFP party preferences helped SDL to win 2 critical seats- Serua andSuvaCity.

And while FLP was denigrating some NFP preferences before the elections, FLP won 4 seats with the assistance of NFP preference votes.

Strange indeed, for NFP to “sit on the fence” by splitting their preferences- from either an ideological point of view, or pragmatic point of view in terms of being partners in government after the elections.

Voter Participation

   During the early days, much was made of the low levels of voter participation.

But the final results suggest otherwise.  Overall there has been a significant improvement in the percentage of registered voters actually voting, rising from 70% in 2001 to 88% in 2006.

 

 

Percent of Registered Voters Voting

 

1999

2001

2006

Fijian Communal

89

78

87

Indian Communal

92

80

89

General Communal

85

73

84

Rotuman

89

76

88

Total Communal

91

79

88

Total Open

90

75

87

 

These proportions of course do not inform us as to the proportions of eligible voters who actually registered, and mistakes about where voters were registered.

There are many sensible suggestions about continuous registration which would eliminate many of our current weaknesses.

Invalid Votes

   Much has been made of the high proportions of invalid votes.

But the facts suggest that there has been an improvement from the 2001 situation- falling overall for communal votes from 12.5% in 2001 to 8.9% in 2006.

 

 

Percent of Cast Votes Invalid

 

1999

2001

2006

Fijian Communal

8.7

10.9

8.7

Indo-Fijian Communal

9.2

14.6

9.4

General Communal

8.2

8.5

6.8

Rotuman

14.7

11.6

6.4

Total Communal

9.0

12.5

8.9

Total Open

8.3

12.1

8.8

 

The Elections Office, with its massive education campaign before the elections has to be given take credit for this reduction in proportion of invalid votes.

But the high proportions in many constituencies remains a cause of concern, especially given the amount of money spent on the voter education.

More money simply cannot be spent on such marginal improvements.

Clearly, there must be a simplification of the ballot papers, and the rules for casting valid votes.

Removing the “above” and “below the line” provisions would be an easy matter for parties to agree on.

Voters could be given the choice of either ticking a candidate and party (in which case party preferences would apply for recounts), or writing down numbers for their own preferences.

The military must accept the results

   The military continues to make public statements about its preferences for aFiji government.

This is extremely undesirable, both from point of view of the rule of law inFiji, and investor confidence and economic growth.

The Elections have been held, with numerous international, regional and local observer groups in attendance.

Unless the observer groups state otherwise, it has to be concluded that the elections were generally fair and transparent.

The military made known their concerns before the elections, especially amongst the indigenous Fijians.

Nevertheless, the SDL, with the 81% support from the indigenous Fijians, has been constitutionally elected to form Government.

The military must respect the people’s views and allow the constitutional processes to work through the normal channels.

Public utterances by them can only create uncertainty in the public mind, and totally undermine investor confidence in the country.

If investment is discouraged and the economy does not grow, no one will benefit.

Indeed, the military budget will legitimately be at risk in any cost-cutting exercise for the government’s budget.

The military needs to use their legitimate channels to express their concerns to their Supreme Commander (the President) and the Government of the day, through the incoming Minister of Home Affairs.

 

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