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A party leader is often labelled as the most powerful official within a political party.
He or she not only commands the respect and loyalty of those within the party, but also represents them to the public. He or she is the main character in the play. The role of communicating party policy to the voters belongs to such a leader. He or she is also typically the public face of the party and the principal media contact.
In most cases, party leaders compete directly for high political office. For Fiji, it’s the office of the Prime Minister under the draft constitution.
So, who will take on this important role of party leader? Which parties are looking for a new face and which are clinging to the old?
As political parties gear themselves up for election battle, we take a look at the three registered parties and a suspended party.
Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) In the running is SODELPA president Ro Teimumu Kepa. Because of her chiefly status in the Burebasaga confederacy, her influence is no doubt vital for the party. Her strong links to the Kubuna confederacy also matter.
On merit, she is well qualified for the party leadership role. She was principal of the Corpus Christi Teachers College and later Minister for Education in the Laisenia Qarase-led government.
Against the current government, Ro Teimumu has been vocal and strategic in her moves.
Recently, she boycotted the Rewa Provinicial Council meeting . She opted to hold a meeting with district chiefs (turaga i taukei) at Nabudrau village in Noco on the same day the council meeting was held in Nausori.
But she will struggle to get multiracial support after some past comments.
Another likely party leadership contender is Ratu Jone Kubuabola. While he may be the rightful leader for the party after taking over the reins from Laisenia Qarase, he remains to be seen as possessing leadership material.
His quiet demeanor can be interpreted as passive – some prefer a leader who is outspoken and confrontational on isseues.
Ratu Jone is a former Governor of the Reserve Bank and former Minister of Finance in the Laisenia Qarase-led government.
National Federation Party Raman Pratap Singh is likely to be NFP’s party leader. A lawyer by profession, he has the tremendous task of reviving the once vibrant National Federation Party.
NFP, since the 1970’s has failed to heal the fragmented relationships it has carried through over the years.Internal rivalry and disputes left the party in tatters.
This worsened when Jai Ram Reddy agreed to form an electoral coalition with Sitiveni Rabuka’s Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei.
Forming an identity would be Mr Singh’s first task in order to regain lost love. If he is able to do this, he could once again win the support of the cane belt where the party once ruled.
However, former NFP members reckon that Mr Singh is yet to be tested for his leadership skills.
In May, the party held its meeting in Lautoka with a little over twenty people in attendance. Whether this reflects on Mr Singh’s abilities and leadership – only time will tell.
Word on the street is that a potential and younger party leader is being groomed for the position as well. This is supposed to be the work of those who have tirelessly supported the party over the years.
Will a new fresh face regain the lost glory NFP once enjoyed?
Or is there a possibility of supporting the current government?
Some of the issues the NFP founders fought for are being carried out by Prime Minister Bainimarama and his team.
The suspended Fiji Labour Party. Mahendra Chaudhry is the leader of the suspended Fiji Labour Party. He is also party secretary.
Giving up on either roles is unlikely. Mr Chaudhry has a way of making things happen his way. He has been in politics for over twenty years – in fact since the formation of the now suspended FLP in 1985.
He is a hard worker and commands a lot of respect from those in the unions which he serves.
He was Prime Minister for a year until the 2000 coup. Internal dissent arose among prominent FLP members and disagreement over Mr Chaudhry’s ways has led to a likely weakening of the party.
Labour stalwarts like Krishna Datt and Poseci Bune have gone on to be part of the new People’s Democratic Party.
Former union allies have also split with him.
In 2007, Mr Chaudhry created a lot of controversy when he accepted the post of interim Finance Minister in the current government. He resigned a year later and became the government’s harshest critic.
People’s Democratic Party Adi Sivia Qoro is PDP’s interim party leader. She is most likely to be voted as leader during the party’s annual convention in October.
She has worked tirelessly to form the party and is also one of the ‘new generation of leaders’ PDP is endorsing.
She has had some experience in Parliament after the 2006 elections and is well qualified academically.