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Fiji has finally reached the other side of the long and winding road that was the 2022 general election and can enjoy the festive season with a new leader decided.

Sitiveni Rabuka is Fiji’s first new leader in 16 years, but the work has only just begun for his three-party coalition government.

Rabuka was elected with 28 votes to 27.

“It was a very close margin,” Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) youth forum president Ben Daveta said.

From the polls to Parliament, every decision was balanced on a knife’s edge.

Rabuka inherits a divided nation
First, no party gained an outright majority to rule.

Then it took the king-makers Sodelpa two split-votes to choose a coalition partner — and even in the final secret ballot to elect a prime minister, someone in the opposition ranks voted for the other side.

It has been a frantic time, Daveta said.

“Well, first of all, I’ve really been trying to get my breath for the last few minutes and it was nerve-wracking.

Fiji's new prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka
Former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka emerges after being named prime minister of Fiji. Image: RNZ Pacific

“Democracy came through, their prayers came through.”

Prominent Sodelpa member and democracy advocate Pita Waqavonovono said this is the way forward.

He expressed a sense of excitement to “make Fiji better again”.

Pita Waqavonovono and Ben Daveta
Pita Waqavonovono (left) and Ben Daveta … “Democracy came through, their prayers came through.” Image: Kelvin Anthony/RNZ Pacific

“It is time for us to have a real democracy and FijiFirst has shown an unwillingness to govern democratically,” Waqavonovono said.

In its first 100 days Rabuka’s government must find a way to unite Fijians and tackle the challenges of a nation emerging from the pandemic.

Congratulations sent to Fiji
Congratulatory messages continue to pour in for Rabuka.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna congratulated Sitiveni Rabuka on his appointment as Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji.

“Fiji has come through a general election and its subsequent parliamentary milestone and can now fully enjoy the full measure of this festive season,” Puna said.

PIF Leaders at 2050 strategy launch
Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama . . . acknowledged for his leadership as the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum. Image: Samuel Rillstone/RNZ Pacific

Puna also acknowledged former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama for his leadership as the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

Puna thanked Fiji for upholding the values of peace and goodwill as Pacific leaders together work towards a productive and successful 2023.

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

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