INDEPENDENT NEWS

Speight Wins Seat in Fiji Parliament

Published: Wed 5 Sep 2001 04:52 PM
by Selwyn Manning
George Speight the man charged with treason after he led an armed coup has won his seat and is set to become a Fijian Member of Parliament.
Speight effectively crushed the elected Fijian Labour Party government on 19 May 2000 after he and a huddle of his supporters took siege of the Fijian Parliament in Suva. Once inside Parliament, the then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and members of his Cabinet were held hostage at gunpoint for eight weeks.
Speight, campaigned from his jail-cell as a Conservative Alliance/Matanitu Vanua candidate and is now set to enter Parliament via the ballot box.
Ilikini Naitini (aka George Speight) was been declared the winner of the Tailevu North Fijian Provincial Communal Constituency at 1:30pm today [Wednesday 5 September 2001]. Speight polled 3489 votes on the second count surpassing the absolute majority of 3396.
It’s the latest in a series of ironic twists in the Fijian elections, which yesterday saw an earthquake shake Suva and today failing telecommunications.
Interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has won the Lau Commmunal seat with the highest percentage of vote. The result buoyed Qarase and his Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party [SDL] to claim that it will be the party that forms a new government.
Qarase said a “grand Fijian coalition” would provide an alternative to a Labour-led government. Qarase said he would not work with Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry as Prime Minister but was willing to have Mr Chaudhry in his Cabinet.
The claim seems odd considering the Fijian Labour Party is steaming ahead to take a clear majority in the Fijian General Elections. However, the view in Suva is that even with a decisive lead it is uncertain whether the FLP is able to form a government.
Fijian constitutional law requires the main governing party to form a coalition with one other party that gained more than eight seats in the 71-seat parliament.
Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudry won his Ba open Communal seat. Chaudry collected a total of 9651 votes while his competitor Ram Lagendra of National Federation Party collected 5181.
Chaudhry remains confident FLP can win 37 seats. Chaudhry said early this morning he could not work out a suitable coalition yet as the results were not clear: "We can't make any decision because the others are far behind the Labour Party," Chaudhry reportedly said on Fiji-Live.
Meanwhile, Conservative Alliance leader Ratu Rakuita Valalalabure said the negotiation for the grand Fijian coalition is underway. Ratu Rakuita said: “As the election results to date stand, it is highly likely that the Conservative Alliance, SDL (with the help of other smaller Fijian parties) can form the next Government.” An invitation will be extended to other qualifying parties to join together to form a government. He added: “A serious negotiation is underway between my lawyers and SDL executives.”
A breakdown of Fiji’s sole internet provider, Telecom Fiji Ltd, has delayed vote talleying.
However, at 4:31pm Fijian time: the FLP had won 21 seats, the Conservative Alliance MV Party 6 seats, the National Federation Party [NFP] 1, Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua [SDL] 14 and United General Party [UGP] 1 seat.
Once a government is finally formed, the Fiji judiciary will face the ironic position of judging a man charged with treason, who has been newly elected to the very institution that he forcibly destroyed only 16 months earlier.
Selwyn Manning - Scoop Auckland
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