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Monday, December 12, 2022

Fiji is experiencing a media blackout ahead of the national election on Wednesday

Fiji in media blackout ahead of national election on Wednesday


 SYDNEY: On Wednesday, Fiji, a Pacific island nation that plays a crucial role in the response of the region to the strategic competition between China and the United States, will hold its third national election, the third since the coup that brought its leader to power in 2006.


A media blackout on campaign coverage was imposed on Monday in accordance with Fijian election laws until the closing of polling places on Wednesday at six o'clock. Political parties are obligated to remove flags, banners, and posters from public display as a result of the blackout.


Fiji had a history of military coups before the constitution was changed in 2013 to remove a race-based electoral system. The Pacific trade and transport hub has a population of 900,000 people, including a significant Indian ethnic group.


In a public speech this month, its military chief Major General Ro Jone Kalouniwai advised officers to "honour the democratic process by respecting the outcome of the voting," allaying concerns that the closely contested national election could result in a second coup.


Around 90 election observers, led by Australia, India, and Indonesia, will keep an eye on the national vote counting center and polling booths by way of a multinational group of observers.


In 2014 and 2018, democratic elections were won by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who came to power through a coup in 2006.


As a climate change advocate with a high international profile, Bainimarama has served as chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional diplomatic bloc, as it attempted to manage rising security tensions between China and the United States this year.


In February, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with people from the region in Fiji. At the meeting, Washington promised to increase its diplomatic and security resources to fight China's push for more power.


After Solomon Islands signed a security agreement with China in April, Fiji strengthened its security ties with Australia, its largest aid donor during the pandemic.


Before the Coronavirus pandemic, China had been a huge giver of hardware to Fiji's military. This election will be a "tight race," according to Dr. Stewart Firth, an Australian National University research fellow who has written books on Pacific politics and Fiji's coups.


He stated that Bainimarama had gained support from the Indian community since 2013 due to his decision to eliminate the race-based electoral system.


Another former coup leader and prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, is expected to pose the greatest threat to Bainimarama in this election. His People's Alliance Party has joined forces with the National Federation Party, Fiji's oldest political party, to form a coalition. Firth stated that NFP garners a substantial multiracial vote.


The 2018 election was "transparent and credible," according to a report by international observers, despite concerns about media self-censorship.


In its 2018 report, the Multinational Observer Group called for laws to be changed so that the media could "confidently play their vital role" and examine the government's and opposition's performance.

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