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Democracy hopes dashed in Fiji

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Government of the Republic of Fiji
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Fiji's President and Prime Minister criticised the draft constitution which was developed following the submissions of 7000 individuals and organisations and announced that the government would put an alternative draft constitution to a hand-picked Constituent Assembly.

The situation for Fijians hopeful of a return to democracy has also become more complicated with a new Political Parties Decree imposing restrictions on the registration of political parties, which will make it almost impossible for existing political parties to register and therefore participate in elections scheduled for September 2014.  These developments coincided with Fiji attracting attention in the international arena as  as it assumed the Chair of the United Nation's Group of 77 and China - the first time a Pacific Island nation has taken on this role.

The Lowy Institute's 2011 Fiji Poll found that 83 percent of people in Fiji believed a promised new constitution would lead to a better democracy.  The Poll also found near universal (above 96 per cent) support for democratic rights including the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and media freedom. Support for a permanent role for the military in Fiji politics, one of the assumed objectives of the regime, however, was much lower at 53 per cent.  Realising the hopes for democracy of the Fiji people and maintaining the dominance of the military may yet prove challenging for the regime.

Jenny Hayward-Jones and former University of the South Pacific Professor Wadan Narsey discuss the new developments in Fiji on The Interpreter.