|QARASE IN LAST HOURS OF GOVERNMENT: December 2006.|
BY VICTOR LAL
In November 2006 when Tebbutt Research Poll result favoured the beleaguered Laisenia Qarase led SDL-FLP government over the military commander Frank Bainimarama then threatening to execute a coup, the poll result was dismissed by the dictator.
Now, when a new poll by the same Tebutt is showing Bainimarama has “an approval” rating of more than two thirds, the Ministry of Information’s Sharon Smith-John says the poll “demonstrates the support of the people for this Government and the Government has always said this.”
The Lowy Institute in Australia, which has released the opinion poll results, said the result is the voice of the people of Fiji. The Institute’s Jenny Heyward-Jones says that while some may not like what they see in the results, the poll was conducted in an independent manner to find out what the people of Fiji think.
The poll report stated that Bainimarama has good support from 66% of the people polled, and 65% of the people believe Fiji is heading in the right direction. An overwhelming 95% of people support the right to vote in a free election, and around half of the people feel the government is doing a good job making progress to elections. 83% of the people surveyed believe Fiji should be left alone to sort out its return to democracy, and sanctions against the country should be lifted. 96% said the right to a media free from censorship is important to them.
The opinion poll had surveyed 1,032 people.
What did the Tebbutt Poll tell dictator Bainimarama in 2006
On 17 November 2006, at the height of a dangerous standoff between army commander Bainimarama and the Qarase led multi-party government, Tebbutt was commissioned, in part, by the Fiji Times to gauge public opinion in Fiji. Polling took place via personal interviews across Fiji between 14 and15 November, with a sample of 1018 adults.
Here are some of the questions and answers:
“Who do you believe is in the right in the current standoff between the Military and the Government?”
The overall results showed 45% favouring the Government; 36% the Military; 6% both; 4% neither; others unsure. By ethnic group, 67% of Fijians favoured the Government and only 18% favoured the Military; 54% of Indo-Fijians favoured the Military and only 24% favoured the Government. By region, the Suva area was pretty evenly split: 42% Government; 38% Military. In the West, the split was 51% Government; 31% Military.
PM Laisenia Qarase had strong Fijian backing; Bainimarama did not in the poll.
The poll also asked how good a job leaders were doing. Overall, PM Qarase had 57% approval and 23% disapproval. He received 81% support from Fijians, with only 5% disapproving; Indo-Fijians showed 40% disapproval, with 34% approval.
Overall, Bainimarama had 51% approval and 31% disapproval. He received only 30% approval from Fijians, with 53% disapproving; Indo-Fijians showed 71% approval and only 12% disapproval.
Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes had public backing
Despite the dictator screaming for the resignation of Australian, Andrew Hughes (right), the Police Commissioner, Hughes received 79% approval and 7% disapproval, with all segments overwhelmingly positive. As we know, Bainimarama wanted Hughes out of Fiji because the Police Commissioner was pressing for various investigations into the dictator’s conduct since the 2000 mutiny, deaths and murders etc.
Chaudhry and Beddoes showed strong approval rating
The then Leader of Opposition Mick Beddoes (left) also had strong figures, with overall 56% approval and 12% disapproval. FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry had 42% approval and 27% disapproval. As expected, Chaudhry was favored by a majority of Ind-Fijians, but by only 30% of Fijians.
The Tebbutt Poll results reconfirmed the election results from May 2006: that a large majority of Fijians backed the SDL-FLP Qarase Government.
The very high approval rating for Police Commissioner Hughes was another signal to Bainimarama that at least the demand for Hughes to resign was going against the public will. The only way Bainimarama could stop various criminal charges against him was to ignore the Tebbutt Poll results, and execute a coup on 5 December 2006 to save his skin.
How should one read the two Tebbutt Opinion Polls? One was conducted in a democracy and the recent one in a dictatorship.