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Former coup leader and ex-prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka was today elected Fiji’s new prime minister, winning 28 votes to Voreqe Bainimarama’s 27.

The secret ballot vote in Parliament ends Bainimarama’s reign as leader of the country after 16 years. Bainimarama has dominated Fiji politics since he staged the 2006 military coup.

Today’s result was met with jubilant celebrations in the capital Suva with similar scenes playing out across the country on social media.

Rabuka, who staged Fiji’s first two military coups in 1987 and previously served from 1992 to 1999 as an elected prime minister, described himself as “humbled” as he left to be sworn in.

Rabuka now heads a three-party coalition government consisting of his People’s Alliance, the National Federation Party led by Professor Biman Prasad and the kingmaking Sodelpa Party, led by Viliame Gavoka.

Gavoka had this to say to reporters following the vote:

‘Democracy has won’
“Democracy has won. We live in a wonderful country.”

The NFP’s Dr Prasad said his party was happy to work with everyone and even the opposition.

Former Fiji prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama
Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama . . . defeated after 16 years heading the Fiji government. Image: RNZ Pacific

Bainimarama appears to have conceded defeat peacefully, and spoke to reporters.

“I want to thank the supporters of FijiFirst,” he said. “We still are the biggest political party in there, so I want to thank them for that.”

“This is democracy, and this is my legacy, the 2013 Constitution,” he said.

Bainimarama was asked if he would be opposition leader, and laughed and said, “I hope so.”

Cabinet named soon
Rabuka is expected to announce the members of his cabinet in the coming days.

Where the three Sodelpa MPs end up will be the first indication of what was agreed to in the coalition negotiations.

Tuvalu’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Kofe was one of the first foreign politicians to congratulate Rabuka.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ. 

The Fiji Times reports earlier that the Speaker of Parliament had been appointed.

The nominees were former speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

After casting of a secret ballot, the result stood at 27 votes for Ratu Epeli and 28 for Ratu Naiqama.

Ratu Naiqama was nominated by NFP’s Professor Prasad who said he was no stranger to Parliament and Fiji’s political landscape.

Ratu Naiqama was first elected into Parliament after the May 1999 general election.

He was escorted to the chair after taking his oath.

Republished with permission.

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