Commonwealth ministers applaud Fiji’s strides towards democracy

Fiji’s government has made moves towards democracy, which has seen its suspension from the Commonwealth partially lifted. 

Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2009 after the country’s interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, failed to hold democratic elections, a condition demanded by the Commonwealth following the coup of 2006. 

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group decided in March that the country should only be suspended from councils of the Commonwealth, which will allow Fiji to compete in the Commonwealth Games in July. 

Bainimarama defended his decision at the time by saying that the country needed time to reform its voting system. But now he has handed over the role of Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to Brigadier Mosese Tikoitoga. 

This marks the end of Bainimarama’s 39-year military career and leaves him free to focus on forming a new political party, which he hopes to take through this year’s national election. 

His withdrawal from the military was prompted by a new constitution that bars members of the armed forces from running for political office. 

“The UK looks forward to welcoming Fiji back into the Commonwealth family,” said Hugo Swire, UK Foreign Office Minister. “Along with the recent appointment of the Electoral Commission, this represents a further milestone towards a return to democracy.” 

He added: “We look to the authorities to allow the Electoral Commission to act independently as they take forward the organisation of free and fair elections.” 

Provided that the 2014 national elections meet international democratic standards and democracy is returned to the country, Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth will end.


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