What's happening at the
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 07:20 | SYDNEY
Monday 21 Aug 2017 | 07:20 | SYDNEY

Look before you leap: Fiji's forthcoming elections

By

COMMENTS

21 April 2008 14:29

Guest Blogger: Associate Professor Satish Chand (pictured), from the Crawford School of Economics and Government at ANU.

There is considerable debate about whether Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the interim Prime Minister of Fiji and the coup-maker who overthrew the elected government of his predecessor on 6 December 2006, will (as repeatedly promised) return Fiji to the polls next March. Considerable international pressure is already being put on the Commodore to ensure he keeps his word. PMs Sevele (Tonga) and Somare (PNG) met the Commodore last week — no doubt with the blessing of regional leaders from the Pacific Forum — only to get a reaffirmation of this commitment.

The elections taking place next March are the least of my concerns. If history is any guide, the Commodore will deliver on his promised electoral timetable. The real issues for Fiji are whether the elections will be ‘fair and free’ and if it will enable Fiji to escape its cycle of coups. I'm not sure of either. And another election, at the urging of the international community, could just make matters worse.

Place yourself in the shoes of the Commodore. Would you risk losing an election, knowing full well the consequences that would follow? The Commodore has vowed to stop the SDL, the party he ousted from government, from recontesting the March ’09 elections. Will the elections be judged ‘fair and free’ if this promise is kept? Even if kept out of the race, what if a re-badged SDL makes it through? Another coup, followed by a repeat of the well-rehearsed chorus by the international community?

The possibility of a return to power of some incarnation of the SDL is not beyond the realms of possibility. The international community will have done Fiji a huge disservice if by pushing for 'fair and free elections by March 2009' it edges the nation towards its 5th coup.

I am not arguing for a deferment of the forthcoming elections: in my view it's a given they will go ahead. I am canvassing for some thought to be given to getting Fiji off its cycle of coups. It is a simple message: look before leaping into yet another election! Some fresh thinking and leadership on how Fiji could be decoupled from its coup culture is well overdue.

You may also be interested in...