11 Jun 2013

United Front in Fiji vows to carry on its fight

4:59 pm on 11 June 2013

Members of an umbrella political group in Fiji say there is still a role for a united opposition force despite the registration of four political parties.

At least three of the parties are committed to working together to get the country's military-led regime out of power, preferably before the polls promised for September next year.

Sally Round reports:

SALLY ROUND: The United Front for a Democratic Fiji met in Nadi at the weekend and a spokesman Mick Beddoes says it has resolved to continue its work, widen its membership and accelerate activity. Politicians from three political parties and unionists are among members of the group set up to oppose the regime's new constitution and counter the regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama who has announced he'll run for election. The group says it is committed to having a caretaker government installed before then and Mr Beddoes says the Front's Roadmap to Democracy will be released within a fortnight.

MICK BEDDOES: It's been six years since any political activity of any kind has been going on in the country so there's a lot of groundwork to be done getting back into the organisational strengths that all of the parties individually and collectively will have. And in the meantime the members are clear the key to our success is retaining the unity of the group and we're also expanding the group to include NGOs and youth groups so that we can all work together as an effective opposition.

SALLY ROUND: The president of Fiji's National Federation Party says the NFP, the Social Democratic Liberal Party, or Sodelpa, and Labour won 95 percent of the vote at the last election. Raman Singh says the party's political strategy is focused on the united front for now and it could effectively amount to a coalition force fighting the next polls.

RAMAN SINGH: At the moment, with the way we are working, it could amount to to that, but we have decided to make decisions as we go along. When the constitution is promulgated we'll have a look at the constitution, whatever the conditions, and the electoral elect will come in later. So as we go along, we'll make decisions on the united front. It will be a coalition before the election.

SALLY ROUND: While Mick Beddoes says there is a lot of interest from NGOs in joining up, Raman Singh admits some challenges in getting grassroots support.

RAMAN SINGH: At the moment they are not coming out in great numbers. I think there is a lot of support for the UFDF, but for reasons of fear and all that they are not coming out. But it's one of those things if we keep on working, the numbers come out as we go along. I suppose when people realise that we are a strong force with a big following they will become fearless.

SALLY ROUND: Dr Tupeni Baba of Sodelpa says the removal of the regime before elections is the front's primary goal but it has a Plan B.

TUPENI BABA: We are envisaging as the situation develops further that we will be able to have a common platform and a common manifesto if it comes to the election so that we can crowd out the regime.

SALLY ROUND: Dr Baba says it's a question of adapting political strategy as the regime reveals more of its plans. Meanwhile Fiji's newest political party, the People's Democratic Party, which was borne out of dissatisfaction with Labour, has yet to decide whether it will join the United Front. Its interim president, Adi Qoro, says the party agrees with its principles and will discuss whether to join at upcoming meetings.