Ratuva warns of crisis

January 23, 2024 6:39 am

Political Sociologist Professor Steven Ratuva

Fiji is facing a critical situation where the Prime Minister’s authority clashes with complex coalition agreements, according to Political Sociologist Professor Steven Ratuva.

He highlights the challenges in the political landscape emphasising this issue’s unique nature.

Prof Ratuva says at the heart of the matter is the Constitutional role of the Prime Minister who has the power to choose his Cabinet.

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He also notes the intricacies of coalition agreements influenced by various political interests add layers of complexity.

“We have a constitutional issue here. On the other hand, we have issues to do with relationships between the political parties within the coalition itself and that is one of the is one of the rare situations which Fiji has never been in.”

Professor Ratuva stresses that the delicate balance extends beyond the coalition’s interests to the larger concern of the nation.

He says in this unique scenario, the multi-level contradiction involves not just power dynamics between political parties but also the exercise of constitutional rights by the Prime Minister.

The Fijian academic also says that constitutional issues become intertwined with relationships between political parties within the coalition creating a rare situation for Fiji.

Prof Ratuva highlights a critical oversight in the coalition agreement.

He notes the PM’s right to dismiss any Minister is complicated by the unique dynamics of the coalition, especially with SODELPA where withdrawal could collapse the coalition and limit the Prime Minister’s authority.

Prof Ratuva says the recent termination of Education Minister Aseri Radrodro exemplifies the challenges faced by the Coalition government.

“In this particular context, it’s made more complex by the fact that you have a coalition. And there’s an agreement in the coalition, particularly with SODELPA with the power if they withdraw their support, the coalition will collapse.

Fiji’s electoral system based on proportional representation has introduced a coalition government, challenging the traditional assumption of single-party leadership.

Professor Ratuva points out a significant gap in the coalition agreement – the lack of a clear plan in the event of a minister’s dismissal.

“In the case of SODELPA and the Coalition, they have only three Ministers, they have 5% or so in the last election, with the three Ministers and three MP’s, if you get rid of one, a very crucial vote as well within the parliament then you are caught up in a very fragile situation where anything can move anywhere.”

Reflecting on global examples, Professor Ratuva notes that while coalition governments promise diverse representation, they also pose risks of instability.

Drawing parallels with nations like Israel and New Zealand, he emphasizes the delicate balance needed when small parties hold the balance of power.

Trust is crucial in coalition agreements and Professor Ratuva warns that breaching this trust can jeopardize the balance posing a threat to the sustainability of coalition governance in the long term.