Fiji has made rapid progress to elections

Fiji’s possible return to the fold of the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s preeminent inter-governmental organisation of independent nations of the Pacific, has been much in discussion in recent months. Fiji was suspended from the Forum in May 2009, after it failed to meet the deadline set by the regionl group to hold democratic elections in the country. Fiji’s interim government, which had assumed political power after the events of December 2006 during which an elected government was ousted, then claimed that conditions were not right to hold elections. It would not at that time make a firm commitment to a timetable for the elections, which is what precipitated the suspension. Meanwhile, Fiji was also suspended from the British Commonwealth of Nations for much the same reasons. Over the past year, however, Fiji has made rapid and convincing progress toward holding democratic elections in September. Under the auspices of the interim government, the country has developed a new constitution. It has also reworked its electoral systems and invited international observers to oversee the electoral process less than two months from now. A couple of months ago in the run up to this scenario, both Australia and New Zealand, two of the wealthiest and only Western world members of the Forum, lifted several sanctions that they had placed on Fiji over the past eight years. The lifting of sanctions was clearly a show of confidence in the slow but sure steps that the interim government was taking toward returning to a democratic polity driven by free and fair elections. In fact senior ministers and politicians of these two nations have gone on record in the media praising Fiji for its efforts, albeit choosing their words cautiously. They have also expressed willingness to help with the electoral process, which they have been invited to participate in, by Fiji’s administration. All in all, there is an air of increasing positivity around the Fiji situation over the past few months.

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• We Say is compiled and edited by Samisoni Pareti

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