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Fiji election of 1977 (March)
Fiji's election for the House of Representatives held in March 1977 was the second since independence from the United Kingdom in 1970. A split in the ethnic Fijian vote, which saw 25 percent defecting to Fijian Nationalist Party of Sakeasi Butadroka , an extremist organization which advocated the "repatriation" of Indo-Fijians to India, led to the narrow defeat of the Fijian Alliance Party of the Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. The Alliance won 24 seats, two fewer than the Indo-Fijian-dominated National Federation Party. One seat was won by the Fijian Nationalist Party, with the remaining seat going to an independent candidate.
As the winner of the election, the National Federation Party should have formed the government. Three days after the election, however, the party splintered in a leadership brawl, and the Governor General, Ratu Sir George Cakobau, called on the defeated Ratu Mara to form an interim government pending fresh elections. Defending his actions, the Governor-General issued the following statement:
"In the recent general election, the people of Fiji did not give a clear mandate to either of the major political parties. It therefore became the duty of the Governor-General under the Constitution to appoint as Prime Minister the Member of the House of Representatives who appeared to him best able to command the support of the majority of the Members of the House. The Governor-General has not been able to act sooner as it was not until this afternoon that he was informed who had been elected leader of the National Federation Party. The Governor-General, after taking all relevant circumstances into account, has come to the firm conclusion that the person best able to command support of the majority of the Members is the Leader of the Alliance Party, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. In compliance with the Constitution and acting in his own deliberate judgment the Governor-General has accordingly appointed Ratu Sir Kamisese as Prime Minister."
Some have alleged that the Governor-General used the splintering of the National Federation Party as a pretext to keep his fellow-chief (and distant cousin), Ratu Mara, in power. Others, however, believe that the Governor-General did what he had to do, as the National Federation Party was incapable of forming a coherent government. This was the view articulated by Jai Ram Reddy, the leader of one of the dueling factions of the NFP, in a radio broadcast during the crisis. Some have charged that Reddy colluded in the Governor-General's actions in keeping his own party out of power, so that he could depose Sidiq Koya, the longtime leader of the party. Many commentators believe that a better way forward might have been to set up a "government of national unity," representing both the Alliance and the NFP, but this was unacceptable to Ratu Mara. Whatever the truth of the myriad allegations about the parties involved, Ratu Mara remained in office in an interim capacity despite his electoral defeat, and a fresh election was held to resolve the impasse in September.
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