The new Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has approved the use of vernacular languages - Hindi and iTaukei - during parliament sittings. In addition, the government promises to ensure focus on the teaching, promotion and preservation of vernacular languages in the country.
After a week of tense and uncertain coalition negotiations and worries that the outgoing prime minister would not leave peacefully, the Fijian parliament voted to elect Sitiveni Rabuka prime minister, replacing former Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who had taken power in a 2006 coup. Rabuka, who also led two coups in 1987 and was previously elected prime minister in 1992, and his People’s Alliance Party finished with 36 per cent of the vote behind Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party with 42.5 percent. The People’s Alliance Party secured the support of smaller parties to gain the premiership. The campaign was contested on both socioeconomic issues and concerns over the future of Fijian democratic institutions, specifically the fear of future coups. Observers and media noted numerous irregularities throughout the electoral cycle. Women’s representation declined from 11 of 51 to 6 of 55 seats in parliament, and voter turnout was 68.3 per cent.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama announced Fiji would hold national elections on 14 December, after months of criticism from the opposition over the lack of a date for the regularly scheduled election. Both Bainimarama and his opponent Sitiveni Rabuka have led military coups, and the last transfer of executive power via an election took place in 1999. The most recent election was largely clean, but international observers are concerned about a further entrenchment of authoritarianism and decay of democratic norms. Opposition political parties have warned of legal intimidation and accused the government of the abuse of administrative resources, such as vote buying.