The BGA Fiji Team, led by Senior Adviser Amb. Ian Kemish, recently wrote an update on lingering political instability nearly six months into Fiji’s new government.


  • Fiji’s supervisor of elections lifted a suspension on the country’s largest opposition party, FijiFirst, June 9 following the party’s compliance with requirements of the Political Parties Act. FijiFirst and two other opposition parties were barred from participating in political activities in mid-May for failing to disclose their finances. The suspension, which was seen as a deliberate effort to target the opposition, has raised concerns that Fiji’s June 30 parliamentary budget debates will not be democratic.
  • The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), one of the three governing coalition parties, has stirred political tensions by accusing its partners of not delivering on their post-election promises. SODELPA is upset that its members have not been granted senior political positions, such as Cabinet portfolios and key overseas postings. This has created hairline fractures in the coalition, whose unity is key to the political durability of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s government.


  • The ruling coalition has sought to reverse the previous government’s undemocratic practices, including by revoking controversial media laws, reviewing public institutions and purging the public service of crony appointments. The speed and scope of the reform process and the expulsion from Parliament of two of the last government’s most powerful politicians — former Prime Minister Frank Bainamarama and former Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum — has raised fears that the new government is purposefully and undemocratically hollowing out the opposition.
  • The suspension of the opposition parties in May was based on a requirement under the Political Parties Act that parties provide the accounts of their audited income, expenditure, assets and liabilities in the three months after each financial year ends. The legislation, which FijiFirst introduced during its tenure, was designed to be administratively convoluted to weaken the opposition; it is now being used against FijiFirst. On the other hand, the People’s Alliance Party and SODELPA, both part of the ruling coalition, were not suspended despite failing to provide the relevant documentation.
  • SODELPA’s recent claims that its demands are not being met by the People’s Alliance and the National Federation Party have stoked political volatility. Although it won only three seats, SODELPA became a kingmaker in last year’s general election, joining the coalition on the condition that its members receive key government posts. A meeting was held June 13 between coalition parties to discuss SODELPA’s claims and allay its concerns. Nonetheless, SODELPA’s public grievances have exposed fractures in the coalition and worried observers over its ability to work together and maintain political stability.


  • The military is staying out of politics for now, but controversial political decisions have raised concerns about the potential for an intervention. Fiji’s Constitution contains a clause allowing the military to intervene in politics; the country has a long history of military coups, including two in 1987, one in 2000 and another in 2006. Fiji’s military commander caused alarm in January when he warned the new government not to overstep on the pace and reach of its reforms. He quickly after said the military would continue to respect democracy and not undermine the new government. Nonetheless, the episode was a reminder of the military’s looming presence over politics in Fiji.
  • The coalition will face its greatest test yet as it prepares its first national budget by the end of the month. The budget will demonstrate whether the coalition can keep many of its election promises.

We will continue to keep you updated on developments in Fiji as they occur. If you have any comments or questions, please contact BGA Senior Advisor Amb. Ian Kemish at

Best regards,

BGA Fiji Team