Fiji’s parliamentary session for Prime Minister’s election adjourned

People’s Alliance leader Chithiveni Rabuka is expected to become prime minister after the three parties signed a coalition agreement on Tuesday following inconclusive elections. The deal will remove Fiji First’s Frank Bainimarama, who has led Fiji since a 2006 coup.

According to the constitution, if no party wins more than 50% of the seats, lawmakers must elect a prime minister.

Fiji’s parliamentary secretariat confirmed to Reuters in an email that parliament will not convene on Wednesday as Fiji’s President William Katoniware has yet to issue a proclamation.

The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), which holds three seats in parliament, signed a coalition agreement with Rabuka’s People’s Alliance and the National Alliance Party on Tuesday.

SODELPA’s decision came after a narrow vote with 16 of its board members in favor, while 14 supported Bainimarama’s Fiji First.

SODELPA’s secretary-general, Lenaitai Duru, resigned following the decision and wrote to the Fiji and Katoniware parliaments to postpone the return of parliament, arguing that SODELPA’s decision was “null and void”, television network FBC reported.

In a statement on Wednesday, Fiji’s police force called for calm and called for “all Fijians to respect the political process”.

“We are concerned about the number of stone-pelting incidents last night targeting the homes and businesses of Fijians of Indian origin,” Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sithiveni Giliho said in the statement.

The Pacific island nation of 900,000 people had a history of military coups before it passed a constitutional amendment in 2013 that abolished an ethnic-based voting system that favored indigenous Fijians over a larger Indian ethnic group.

Bainimarama won democratic elections in 2014 and 2018 with the support of the Indian public, but faced criticism over his government’s strict media laws and pressure on the judiciary.

On Wednesday morning, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand was not congratulating Rabuka as it waited for “the dust to settle and the tests to be final”.

“I am confident in Fiji’s ability to get through the remaining stages of this process and stand ready to recognize their new leader,” he said.

In a tense election, Rabuka’s call for the military to intervene during the vote count last week was rejected, and Rabuka was questioned by police on Friday night and released without charge.

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