TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -Two former coup leaders are seen as the leading contenders in Fiji’s general election on Wednesday, the second to be held since 2006 when then-commander of the armed forces Frank Bainimarama seized power.
The former British colony of more than 300 Pacific islands, with a population of about 910,000, was suspended from the British Commonwealth and isolated diplomatically after the bloodless coup.
Bainimarama stood down from the military to run as a civilian in the country’s 2014 elections, winning in a landslide, and the country has been welcomed back to the international community, enjoying a visit in October from Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.
Former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who himself led two coups in 1987, is the main opposition candidate.
Rabuka, who leads the Social Democratic Liberal Party of Fiji, known as Sodelpa, which is running on a platform of government transparency, will not know until Monday afternoon whether he is eligible to be elected after being accused of deliberately breaching financial disclosure laws.
On Saturday he was questioned by police over an unrelated matter concerning a debate with Bainimarama about the National Bank of Fiji last Monday, Sodelpa general secretary Adi Qionibaravi told Reuters by telephone from Suva.
Qionibaravi said despite the setbacks, Sodelpa could beat Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party.
“We are very confident,” she said.
Stewart Firth, an Australian National University (ANU)Pacific Islands research fellow, said Bainimarama had the advantage of incumbency was likely to win.
Firth said Bainimarama had the support of about 80 percent of Fijians of Indian descent, who are the country’s largest minority, while Sodelpa is regarded as a pro-indigenous Fijian party.