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People’s Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka, shown at a Dec. 17 news conference in Suva, was voted in as Fiji’s new prime minister on Saturday. Photo by Mick Tsikas/EPA-EFE

Dec. 24 (UPI) — Sitiveni Rabuka was elected Fiji’s next Prime Minister on Saturday after receiving 28 votes in a secret ballot in parliament.

The vote ends coup leader Frank Bainimarama’s reign as leader of the country after 16 years. Bainimarama received 27 votes on Saturday.

Rabuka, another former coup leader, has said he favors Western-style democracy and wants to establish relations with major powers and ensure the country does not fall into a debt trap. He previously had served as prime minister but lost in 1999 elections.

He gained the upper hand when the kingmaking Social Democrat Liberal Party this week voted 16-14 in favor of backing him.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement that he looked forward to working with Rabuka on several key issues.

“I congratulate Sitiveni Rabuka on becoming the new Prime Minister of Fiji,” Biden said. “As close partners, Fiji and the United States work together to advance an Indo-Pacific that is free, open, prosperous, and secure.

“Together, we have also made progress on key challenges — including promoting sustainable economic recovery, tackling climate change, and curbing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also congratulated Rabuka.

“New Zealand looks forward to working with the new government to further strengthen our very warm relationship,” she said.

The vote this month was Fiji’s third general election since democratic voting was reintroduced to the Constitution in 2013 and came amid allegations of voter fraud and threats of another military intervention.

Rabuka had asked the military to intervene before Saturday’s parliamentary vote and was questioned by police, but ultimately was not charged.

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Sitiveni Rabuka elected prime minster of Fiji after parliamentary vote – Vigour Times

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