FijiFirst deregistration will create ‘complex’ political situation, Fijian academic says

A significant shift in Fiji’s political landscape is expected Friday as the largest political party in parliament is set to be deregistered.

A decision on convicted former Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s FijiFirst Party’s future is set to be announced after the 4pm local time deadline, with its deregistration a very real prospect.

It has come to this stage after 16 FijiFirst MPs voted with government in favour of a significant payrise for parliamentarians, despite a public outcry against it.

Consequently, FijiFirst – which has 26 MPs – sacked 17 MPs for not following a party directive – a decision exposing internal conflict in the party as the sacked MPs refused to step down, challenging their termination.

Subsequently, the Registrar of Political Parties issued a directive to the FijiFirst Party to amend its constitution by 28 June as it did not have a internal conflict resolution mechanism, which was a breach of the Political Parties Act.

But soon after, all the FijiFirst founding members and office bearers, including Bainimarama and his Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, resigned from the party in protest.

Political commentators called it “a shocking turn of events” unaccompanied by “logic”.

Professor Steven Ratuva. June 2024

Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies pro-vice chancellor, Distinguished Professor Steven Ratuva, said FijiFirst’s deregistration will make it a “complex situation” for the coalition government.

“Parliamentarians who are members of the [FijiFirst] party will no longer have any political party, which means that they can become independent,” Ratuva told RNZ Pacific on the sidelines of a geopolitics panel discussion in Auckland this week.

“They can be absorbed into, say, the coalition, for instance.”

He said the next issue is how many will be absorbed and what will happen with the rest.

“The other issue is to do with the three members of the coalition who have signed a contract as part of a coalition, and the independents are coming in, would have signed a contract as well, like the three political parties.

“What if, for instance, the, let’s say the two partners, Sodelpa and the National Federation Party if they reject getting in members of the former FijiFirst.

“So it’s going to be a complex situation in terms of how they’re going to manage it.”

He said the coalition was already talking about a government of national unity which “has its ups and downs”.

“So effectively [a government of national unity] is going to be just a much bigger coalition, which involves the former members of the party of the FijiFirst.

“If they all come together, as a loose association of former FijiFirst party, then they will have to probably put together a kind of agreement with existing the coalition to see how they can manage the government as a unity.”

According to’s report, the resignation of FijiFirst executives made it “clear” that “anyone who even tried to keep the party going will inherit a significant amount of unpaid debts”.

“According to the party’s audited financial accounts as at 31st December 2023 assessed by fijivillage News, the FijiFirst had a net liability position of $701,180 and a working capital deficiency of $855,938,” the media outlet reported.

“Anyone owed money by the FijiFirst Party will lose out after the deregistration today as individuals are not liable to pay off the huge debt of the party.”

‘Horse-trading taking place’

Professor Ratuva said the Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has hinted at the possibility of establishing a government of national unity, which if it happens, would be a monumental change in the current political scene.

Rabuka has told local media that a it was a “very strong possibility”.

Professor Ratuva said at this stage negotiations would surely be underway.

“I’m sure there would have been some horse-trading, some negotiation taking place behind the scenes,” he said.

He said the they would have to put together an agreement with the existing coalition to manage it properly.

But if it does get to that stage then “there is going to be a bloated cabinet”, he added.

Professor Ratuva admits that even if deregistration does happen on Friday, it could take some time for discussions on the future of the remaining FijiFirst MPs next steps to surface.

“We will have to see in the next week or so after the deregistration,” he said.

The end of FijiFirst would give Prime Minister Rabuka – who has had to put out several fires within his coalition in the first 18 months in power – a larger pool of MPs to choose from to make up his Cabinet.

“Now that Rabuka has enough parliamentarians to choose from does it mean that if you would be in a position to let go of let’s say Sodelpa?”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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