First democratic election claims in Fiji rubbished
The Fiji government's claim that next year's promised elections will be the first truly democractic elections ever held in the country is being rubbished by critics.
The Fiji government's claim that next year's promised elections will be Fiji's first truly democractic elections ever held is being rubbished by critics who say the regime is trying to re-write history.
It's a statement that has also been repeated by some media as fact but two former prime ministers of Fiji beg to differ.
Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:
The official website of the elections' office states that the country's first truly democratic parliamentary elections will be held next year - a message that has been promoted by the government. Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, used his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September to reiterate the claim.
FRANK BAINIMARAMA: This constitution introduces the first genuine democracy Fiji will enjoy since we gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1970.
Some media have also reported that next year will see Fiji's first democratic elections in its history, including the regional news agency Pacnews. Attempts to get an explanation from Pacnews have been unsuccessful. The Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, who was elected prime minister in 1999, says the claim is simply untrue.
MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY: The elections in the past were held under the constitutions which were approved by the people through the parliamentary process and those elections were legitimate so it is not proper or fair even to say that the elections in the past were not democratic.
Mahendra Chaudhry says it's just propaganda and if anything next year's promised elections will be grossly undemocratic. Sitiveni Rabuka is best known as the instigator of two military coups that shook Fiji in 1987. He was later democratically elected Prime Minister, serving from 1992 to 1999. Mr Rabuka says the government is trying to paint a picture that it is the deliverer of democracy to Fiji, which he says is ridiculous.
SITIVENI RABUKA: Any international community that believes that is just as stupid, it is just nonsense for them to say anything like that, it is very irresponsible for them to be saying that.
The Labour party leader Mahendra Chaudhry says there is nothing under the new constitution and electoral arrangements, which have been written by the government, that give any optimism of next year's elections being free and fair. He says the regime will control all aspects of the election, including appointments to the electoral commission.
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