Bainimarama makes final appeal ahead of Fiji vote

The leader of Fiji’s ruling FijiFirst party says a vote for him is a vote for continued security, stability, unity and record growth.

At a final campaign rally in Lautoka, the hub of Fiji’s sugar belt, and waving the 2013 Constitution booklet, Frank Bainimarama again derided the opposition and pressed on the crowd his government’s achievements over the past four years.

Crowds of people, many bussed in from rural areas, took shade under marquees while children played on a bouncy castle and lined up for the ferris wheel in the last of the party’s “Family Fun Days” before the election on Wednesday.

“They offered plenty help for me because I’m a widow,” supporter Jokaveti Taina said.

“Lots and lots of help during (cyclone) Winston,” she said.

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FijiFirst supporter Jokaveti Taina (right).
Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

To drum rolls and cheering children, who were at times urged on by party aides, Mr Bainimarama swept through the crowd shaking hands and posing for selfies after making his final appeal in the Fijian language in the baking heat.

The party released its manifesto this weekend pledging continued free school fees and medicine, plus new roads and shares for sugarcane farmers in the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

It also said it would bid for major sporting events including the 2026 Commonwealth Games, boost police force numbers and establish an Independent Lands Tribunal to handle land complaints.

There were impassioned pleas from FijiFirst candidates to ensure people voted.

“I’m going to win this election,” Mr Bainimarama told RNZ Pacific, laughing when asked about a party member’s description of him as the Messiah.

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Frank Bainimarama appeals for votes.
Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

“The only reason they’re propping me up is because I’ve done a lot for this country,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“Go back and talk to those people about what they mean by freebies,” he retorted when asked about opposition claims the FijiFirst government was engaged in vote-buying ahead of the polls.

“They’re not freebies,” he said, given the example of $1000 grants which had been handed out.

“They’re SMEs (small medium enterprises), intended to prop families up in their own little business or whatever they want to do.

“Anybody wants to criticise the government they can criticise the government. Have you been reading the papers lately?” he said when asked about media freedom during the election.

“The media has been criticising the government so what the hell are you talking about?”

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Frank Bainimarama at the last campaign rally in Lautoka.
Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Fiji’s five other political parties have also been holding final rallies and meetings before a media blackout takes effect at midnight tonight.

The leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party, Sitiveni Rabuka, was questioned by police last night over alleged comments made during a talkback radio programme earlier this week.

Mr Rabuka was being questioned over an alleged breach of the Information Act, according to a Fiji Times report.

Mr Rabuka, who is also facing a court ruling tomorrow over an alleged electoral offence, told RNZ Pacific he was not worried about the police call up.