Konrote Elected As Fiji President: Opposition Claims He Is Ineligible

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Constitutional questions raised as political party members can’t serve

By Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 13, 2015) – Former labour minister Major-General Jioje Konrote has been elected Fiji's new President amid a debate on constitutional breaches.

Mr Konrote confirmed to this newspaper that he had resigned last Friday just after he was informed by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama of his nomination.

Questions were raised by Opposition member Semesa Karavaki right after the nomination by Mr Bainimarama on Mr Konrote's eligibility.

"The issue there is whether Honourable Konrote is a member of a political party. If he is, then this disqualifies him from becoming a nominee. This is obvious madam Speaker that every member that is here today belongs to a political party," Mr Karavaki said.

This then led to Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni announcing receipt of a "written communication of the resignation of Jioje Konrote from the FijiFirst party".

"This matter is a non-issue," Dr Luveni said.

National Federation Party president Roko Tupou Draunidalo told Parliament not to make the "process anymore of a fuss than it already is" and she questioned how members would be able to exercise their conscience of thinking during the secret ballot "when they don't know the background of whose being nominated".

"This is why we don't want to take part in this ridiculous process," Roko Tupou said.

Dr Luveni reassured Parliament that the procedures followed were based on the Constitution and the Standing Orders.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji Times reported that ‘Opposition members in Parliament have petitioned Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to summon a special parliamentary sitting. ... Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa confirmed this in a statement yesterday saying they had exercised their rights pursuant to Standing Order 21(3). ... She said the Opposition wanted the President to decide whether the result of yesterday's voting process in Parliament to select the next President could be effected.’]

"So there are gaps in the Standing Orders and we're in the process of reviewing the Standing Orders so that we can enhance what is in it for future references. Right now the procedures will be based in the Standing Order which is based on the Constitution," Dr Luveni said.

Suva lawyer Jon Apted had earlier told this newspaper that Mr Konrote could resign in Parliament just before the formal nomination.

Mr Konrote becomes the fifth president.

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