March 25, 2013

Bainimarama running in elections

Last updated 09:44 23/03/2013

Fiji's military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama says he will contest democracy-restoring elections next year.

"I am confident that I will win ... if not I won't be standing," he told the FijiLive ( website.

"I don't stand to lose."

Bainimarama staged a military coup in 2006.

His decision to stand comes as a striking independent study reveals people of all races in the country see him in a strong positive light and wants him leading the country.

"I champion him for how people are able to come to him and see him closely, his door is always open," a Fijian woman says in a remark typical in the study Voices of the People produced by the Pacific Theological College.

Researchers, who interviewed 330 people individually and in 41 focus groups, kept their work largely secret as there was a state of emergency which prohibited political gatherings.

With no democracy and no registered political parties, accurate political opinion polling is all but impossible.

"Leadership of the current government is generally seen in a positive light," Voices says.

"This is very much due to its performance, or rather, the perception of its performance by people on the ground."

Bainimarama's leadership "is seen in a particularly positive light".

A focus group of Indo-Fijian rural men reported he was "the appropriate man for the position...."

Indo-Fijian women said, while the way he came to leadership was "problematic", he took over from an elected government that was doing no good.

The report says their analysis shows Bainimarama's regime "enjoys widespread performance legitimacy".

People found positive aspects to the way leadership was conducted with Bainimarama talking and meeting people.

"On the other hand, people are aware that this is an unelected government, and they are often very critical about the way it came to power."

Most participants wanted an elected government and the "military to return power to the people as soon as possible....

"Our overall impression is that, on the basis of a positive perception of the current government's performance, people on the ground are willing to accept this government as constituting a legitimate leadership at the national level."

The fact that Bainimarama delivered to the people "weighs more than the fact that it is not elected and came to power illegally".

People were heavily critical of the police, saying corruption was rife.

Police raid villages in an extremely violent manner. If young people in villages in the interior grow marijuana as a cash crop to make some money, the whole village is punished through extremely violent police raids.

One participant said police "can be pretty brutal".

- © Fairfax NZ News

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