Fiji: soon to be a one-party state?

By Owen Tudor

 

The pretence that Fiji is returning to democracy gets thinner by the month.

Now it looks likely to become a one-party state by 2014, when elections are scheduled for the first time since the 2006 coup.

In December, the Fijian security services seized, shredded and burned the draft constitution drawn up by a commission appointed by the regime.

It was announced that the regime would submit its own draft constitution to a hand-picked national assembly by the end of January. We’re still waiting.

Last month Fijian trade unions announced their intention to establish a political party to contest the elections.

But within a week, the regime issued new rules on the registration of political parties, and promptly banned union (and employer) representatives from playing a part.

The new rules require parties to pay a registration fee of five thousand US dollars, which is a lot in a country where 70 per cent live below the UN poverty line.

But even more draconian is the requirement that parties must have 5,000 paid up members, in a country of less than a million. If that rule applied pro rata in most democracies, all political parties would be banned.

On Saturday (16 February), the regime went further, widening the restrictions on social partner involvement, and making it illegal for journalists to report about a political party unless it is registered.

Mentioning a political party that is, effectively, banned could lead to a 50 thousand US dollar fine and five years in jail.

The regime’s puppet party registration body also announced this week that 14 of Fiji’s 17 current parties had failed to meet the new tests, with two more facing investigation.

That would leave only one party to contest next year’s elections.

That appears to be the point. He’s so scared of popular opposition that Fiji’s so-called Prime Minister Commodore Vorege Bainimarama seems dead set on holding an election in 2014 with himself as the only candidate.

 

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