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By Rakesh Kumar in Suva

After 72 hours of negotiations ended yesterday, the Social Democratic Liberal Party finally chose the People’s Alliance party and National Federation Party as its coalition partners ending the 16 years of domination by 2006 coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama.

Speaking to the media outside Yue Lai Hotel in Suva last night, Sodelpa head of negotiations team and vice-president Anare Jale said it was not an easy decision to make.

The negotiations team from the ruling FijiFirst Party was led by its party leader and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. He was accompanied by FijiFirst general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

“The management board has been meeting for two hours today [Tuesday],” Jale said.

He said they made the decision following presentations from the FijiFirst Party, the People’s Alliance Party and National Federation Party.

“A secret ballot was conducted. There were about 30 members of the management board who voted.

14-16 split vote
“The decision was 14 voted for FijiFirst Party and 16 vote for the People’s Alliance Party.

“Sodelpa will form a coalition with the People’s Alliance Party and National Federation Party to form a new government.

Sodelpa vice-president Anare Jale (from left), PAP leader Sitiveni Rabuka, NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad and Sodelpa former president Ro Teimumu Kepa shaking hands after the coalition agreement signing yesterday
Sodelpa vice-president Anare Jale (from left), PAP leader Sitiveni Rabuka, NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad and Sodelpa former president Ro Teimumu Kepa shaking hands after the coalition agreement signing yesterday. Image: Atu Rasea/The Fiji Times

“We have finally came to a decision and it has not been a very easy decision, it took us few days to decide on the way forward for the party, especially the choice of who we are going to form a coalition with to form the next government.

“It was a huge responsibility for Sodelpa and we are so grateful that the end has now come.”

He said the decision was a tough one.

“The decision was taken into account with presentations made to the negotiating team of Sodelpa which we have been receiving over the last three days.

“We analysed the presentations given, we went back to the management board to report to them.

Rabuka for PM
The negotiation team of the People’s Alliance Party was led by party leader Sitiveni Rabuka, who will become the new prime minister. Also a former coup leader, Rabuka was Fiji’s prime minister from 1992 to 1999.

Questions sent to FijiFirst party leader Voreqe Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum remained unanswered when this edition went to press. RNZ Pacific also faced unanswered questions. The FijiFirst Facebook page has not been undated for four days.

The former Sodelpa leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, said the negotiations were not easy.

Speaking at the news conference last night, she said the lengthy meeting was an indicator of how serious and crucial the meeting was.

“It has not been an easy 72 hours,” Ro Teimumu said.

“We’ve had three management board meetings but that is an indicator of how serious and how crucial and how important it was for us to make the right decision.

“We are factoring in the stability of our country, the way the people have asked us to look at the areas that we needed to look at in terms of where we were to vote today.

“We hope that the way ahead is going to be one that will bring good news to people in terms of the stability of our country, all the things that we’ve been mindful of and complaining about for the last 16 years.”

Ro Teimumu also took time to thank her party supporters.

“I would like to thank our Sodelpa supporters who came through and gave us three seats, which became very crucial in terms of determining the way ahead.

“We wish our parliamentarians especially the new coalition — that is the People’s Alliance Party, and the NFP and Sodelpa — we wish them all the best and we just ask you to keep them in your prayers.”

Rakesh Kumar is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.

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