Chaudhry's conviction gives Bainimarama an edge - academic
An academic says the conviction of Fiji Labour Party's leader means Rear Admiral Bainimarama has an advantage in elections promised for September.
An academic says the conviction of the Fiji Labour Party leader means the regime leader, Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama, has an added edge in the elections promised for September.
A former Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, has been found guilty of breaching the Exchange Controls Act and will likely face a jail term.
Auckland University's Steven Ratuva says Mr Chaudhry was the only obvious leader in the Labour Party, and without him, the party's influence will reduce considerably.
Dr Ratuva told Mary Baines other parties will have to work hard to compete with Rear Admiral Bainimarama's proposed party, Fiji First.
STEVEN RATUVA: With the Labour Party out of the way, you have four main political parties. The latest one being Bainimarama's Fiji First, which has been gathering signatures around the country, to make up for 5,000 which is needed for the registration of the political party. So it's going to be a split between the four political parties in relation to how they're going to gather both Indo-Fijians and indigenous taukei votes.
MARY BAINES: So do you think that this will increase the chances of Fiji First in winning the election?
SR: Yeah, in terms of the Indo-Fijian vote, it was going to go three ways. The Fiji First, under Bainimarama, and the Labour Party, and the National Federation Party. So now with the Labour Party leader out of the way, it's going to be just the National Federation Party and the Fiji First. The Fiji First probably has the edge over the National Federation Party fundamentally because it is able to address an issue which is very fundamental to Indo-Fijians, and that is security. Now the National Federation Party will have to work very hard to be able to compete, particularly in relation to issues of development and also how they will provide the security for the Indo-Fijians, particularly in the long-run. It's a matter of being able to come up with something better, something much more innovative than what the Fiji First has been doing. Once the election campaign starts, when the Fiji First is formed, then the clear picture of the different positions of the different political parties will emerge.
MB: Now Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama has always said that the leaders who were in power before the coup were corrupt, and now that Quarase and Chaudhry have been convicted of financial crimes, do you think this gives Bainimarama traction in his election campaign, you know, to prove to the Fiji public he has got on top of corruption?
SR: It's a rhetoric at this point and time, and rhetoric and political mobilisation do go together. By demonising the old politicians he gives himself the moral high ground on which to stand on. And one of the things that help in that is that some of the finances of the current government are not being exposed through the media. So people are not really sure on what is really going on within the government itself. So in terms of grand-standing, in terms of populist rhetoric, I think it appears that Bainimarama has the upper hand. And what the other politicians need to do is to provide counter-rhetoric to identify some of the weaknesses in what he has been doing, what he has been saying.
MB: So while the wrongdoing of Quarase and Chaudhry have been punished by the courts, how do you think the Fiji public feels about whatever transgressions Bainimarama might be committing which are covered by immunity?
SR: Well at the moment the public is only seeing what good has been done. They're looking at the development which has been taking place. But I suppose as the process of election and of campaign goes through in the next few weeks, they're going to see a lot of hidden information coming to the surface, which Bainimarama perhaps may have to be accountable for.
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