Pacific predictions: what to expect in 2018
Following an eventful 2017, what does this year hold for the Pacific island region?
Politically, the general elections in Fiji are probably the most significant event on the horizon. The period for nomination of candidates is now open and the country will go to the polls some time between April and October. Unsurprisingly, the incumbent Fiji First government appears confident of being returned. These elections will see the return to campaigning of reformed coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, as leader of the SODELPA party. Whilst there has been some talk of an alliance of opposition parties, this has been ruled out by both Biman Prasad, leader of the National Federation Party, and Rabuka. Although the successful conduct of elections is one indicator of democratic governance, there remain significant concerns about freedom of the media. The sedition case against the Fiji Times looks likely to drag on during the lead up to the elections. There are also concerns that moves by the authorities to control social media have been timed to curb online debate and engagement during the campaign period. In addition, the ongoing industrial dispute involving Air Terminal Services (Fiji Ltd) is problematic for the government. Recent involvement of the military in this dispute is concerning and raises further questions about commitment to democratic culture in Fiji.
In Papua New Guinea, the aftermath of last year’s elections will continue in the form of challenges to results in a number of seats. However, past experience has shown that the PNG courts are very slow in dealing with these cases so it is unlikely that they will have any significant effect on this Parliament. Whilst there will be …read more