Fiji’s parliament confirms Sitiveni Rabuka as prime minister after days of uncertainty | Fiji

Fiji’s parliament confirms Sitiveni Rabuka as prime minister after days of uncertainty | Fiji

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Sitiveni Rabuka has become Fiji’s prime minister after a coalition of parties voted to appoint him, signaling the end of Frank Bainimarama’s 16-year rule.

Rabuka’s appointment on Saturday ended 10 days of uncertainty after the election led to a deadlock in parliament. Fiji’s Social Democratic Liberal Party (Sodelpa) held the balance of power and on Friday voted to form a coalition with Rabuka’s People’s Alliance and the National Federation party.

The deal was aimed at displacing Fiji First’s Frank Bainimarama, who has led the Pacific archipelago since a 2006 coup.

Saturday’s secret parliamentary vote for prime minister was closer than expected, with 28 members of parliament voting for Rabuka while 27 voted in favor of Bainimarama. Rabuka’s coalition has 29 seats in parliament, indicating that one member broke ranks to vote in favor of the former prime minister.

Rabuka, 74, said he felt “humbled” to be prime minister as he walked out of parliament to be sworn in by the country’s president.

The military was deployed on the streets of Suva as Rabuka and Bainimarama raced to form a coalition government after a deadlocked general election.

Citing unsubstantiated reports of ethnic violence, Bainimarama said the military was needed to maintain “law and order”.

But former military commander Rabuka, who was prime minister between 1992 and 1999, said the government was “sowing fear and chaos” and “trying to set the nation on fire along racial lines”.

Many Fijians feared that the government’s claims of ethnic violence and the subsequent military deployment were a pretext for a “creeping coup”. In the past 35 years, Fiji has been overcome by four coups.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern congratulated Rabuka on his appointment and said her country looked forward to working with Fiji’s new government to strengthen “our very warm relationship”.

“We greatly value Fiji as a close friend and partner as we advance our shared priorities for the region.”

Ardern said Bainimarama had “an important legacy for Fiji and its role as a regional leader championing action on regional issues, including climate change”.

Fiji has played a key role in the South Pacific’s response to the growing competition for influence between China and the United States. Rabuka said he supports Western-style democracy.

At a press conference earlier this month, the Sodelpa leader said he wanted Fiji’s foreign relations to be closely linked with Australia, New Zealand and some members of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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