Fiji in 2022 – Development Policy Center Devpolicy Blog

Fiji took over the chairmanship of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) last year, and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama hopes to host an in-person Forum leaders’ retreat in Fiji soon. After two years of executive meetings via Zoom, the opportunity to meet in person will be valued. But whether that will continue remains to be seen, with the Omicron variant causing a third wave of COVID-19 across Fiji – the meeting scheduled for February was recently postponed to April.

At the top of the agenda, the presentation of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. It will be more practically relevant to know if anything can be done to prevent the planned withdrawal of five Micronesian states following the appointment of the PIF Secretary General a year ago.

Despite informal encouragement to Micronesian leaders to stay, Palau is adamant that he will pull out, and the other countries – the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati and Nauru – have yet to change their minds despite the The Forum’s attempts at mediation. If Fiji, as presidents, can get these countries, or even some of them, to stay, that will be a great achievement. Otherwise, Fiji will find itself chairing a regional body of greatly reduced relevance and scope.

2022 is also an election year for Fiji and, although elections are not expected until November, the election campaign in the country is already mired in controversy. Last year, the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) attempted to strike off a longtime opposition MP, Niko Nawaikula. It was expelled from parliament after the SOE removed his name from the National Register of Electors, on the grounds that Nawaikula had registered under his common name, used since childhood, and not the name on his birth certificate.

Nawaikula appealed the loss of his parliamentary seat in court and won. The person who paid the price was Solicitor General Sharvada Sharma, an officer with 24 years of legal service with the Government of Fiji, ten of them as Solicitor General. He had represented the government in the Nawaikula case. Suspended first for “misconduct”, Sharma was later fired without pay by the outgoing President of Fiji, Major Jioji Konrote, without the constitutionally required opportunity to defend himself.

The complaint of “misconduct”, according to Sharma’s lawyer Richard Naidu, came from SOE Fiji, Mohammed Saneem, a junior barrister before his appointment by the FijiFirst government as supervisor in 2014. Solicitor General is challenge his dismissal and his case is currently before the courts.

The 2020s are also controversial amendments the Voter Registration Act, which requires people registering to vote to use their full name as specified on their birth certificate. When tabling the Elections Bill for debate in parliament in September last year, Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said changes were needed following the ruling in the Nawaikula case. .

Seven women, supported by the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, have since lodged a constitutional challenge against the amendments based on sex, gender and marital discrimination. Their argument is that the amendment will particularly affect married women who are registered to vote using their marital name and not their birth certificate name, and who are now required to either re-register to vote under their birth certificate name. birth, or to modify their birth certificate. .

Less than a year from the elections, this would deprive thousands of women of their rights.

With the Indo-Fijians now makeup Representing only 34% of the Fijian population, the November election will be overwhelmingly decided by the iTaukei vote (62%). The last elections of 2018 were narrowly won by the incumbent FijiFirst party. It won 27 seats against the 21 of the Liberal Social Democratic Party (SODELPA) and the three of the National Federation Party (NFP).

Given that Bainimarama has been in power for 16 years and widespread dissatisfaction with service delivery, the economy and governance, one would expect the elections to lead to change. However, it is not that simple.

There is currently eight registered parties in Fiji, up from seven in the last election. The opposition is made up of SODELPA and NFP and five others: the newly registered Popular Alliance (comprising disgruntled SODELPA members led by 1987 coup leader and former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and its faction), the smaller Unity Fiji, Fiji Labor Party, HOPE and Freedom Alliance (registered since 2014 but have yet to field candidates).

Fiji’s current open-list proportional representation electoral system prevents parties from winning a single seat unless they reach a threshold of 5% of all votes cast. Votes for small opposition parties could therefore end up protecting the government.

The conduct of the FijiFirst elections will also depend on the state of the economy and progress made in 2022 against the pandemic. Fiji suffered from a very high number of cases last year, but then did well with vaccination. It remains to be seen, however, how well the country will fare with the boosters and the removal of Omicron. In turn, this will decide the length of the borders, which were reopened to tourists on December 1, 2021, will remain open.

Fiji has been among the Pacific economies hardest hit by COVID-19 due to its heavy reliance on tourism. The reopening of borders to tourists has started well. Fiji Tourism open to happiness The campaign was well received in the targeted markets, and resorts and cruises were quickly booked to capacity. However, the discovery of Omicron days before Fiji reopened added uncertainty to the equation.

It is still early days with the third wave, and the results will depend on controlling the number of people affected and the severity of the cases. 92.4% of the population is fully vaccinated and boosters have started. However, Fiji has yet to vaccinate all of its primary school age children.

The damage, death and injury caused by widespread flash flooding linked to this month’s Tropical Cyclone Cody has put further strain on the nation’s morale and its already fragile economy.

Both regionally and nationally, 2022 will be a big year for Fiji. Prospects of success for PM Bainimarama – who, he has just been revealed, underwent urgent heart surgery in Australia – are difficult to predict.

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