Fiji election campaign heats up in NZ
Fiji expats living in New Zealand are being urged to put an end to their homeland's "coup culture" by voting against Frank Bainimarama in the September polls.
Fiji expats living in New Zealand are being urged to put an end their homeland's "coup culture" by voting against Frank Bainimarama in the first general election since he seized power in 2006.
Nearly 2000 Fiji citizens here have registered to vote in the election on September 17.
The campaign to win their votes and the support of the wider Fiji community started over the weekend with the first of the political parties holding a public meeting in Auckland.
Karen Mangnall reports.
About 50 Fiji citizens turned out to meet the leaders of the National Federation Party. And they were quick to ask the party's president, Tupou Draunidalo, whether there's any point in voting at all.
Is there any guarantee of there ain't going [to be] no coup, that's what I'm asking?
If we reward this coup maker and legitimise his government by voting for him, or if we vote for other politicians who have supported coups in the past, then we are telling the soldiers it's okay to make coups?
The party's leader, Biman Prasad, told another questioner that people in Fiji are fed up with coups, and that includes the military.
BIMAN PRASAD: And what the military commander has said quite publicly, it is going to respect the constitution and respect the results of the general election, suggest to us that the appetite for any more coups in Fiji is no longer there.
Biman Prasad said the election is Fiji's best chance to return to democracy, but it's a long way from being free and fair. He said there's a lot of confusion and fear, and the electoral commission responsible for running the election needed to exert its authority.
BIMAN PRASAD:I think we have a compliant electoral commission, a commission which does not seem to have spine, which does not act to appear to be independent, [which] is putting a lot of uncertainty into the minds of political parties and voters.
After the meeting, Biman Prasad said the New Zealand government should be concerned about the constraints on campaigning and the media.
BIMAN PRASAD: What I would say to the government of New Zealand and indeed other governments which are supporting the Fijian elections office is to ensure that the election process continues to remain independent, free and fair, right up to the day when the seats are announced to the political parties.
Tupou Draunidalo says however flawed the election might be, it is still the best chance to return Fiji to democracy.She says Fiji expats in New Zealand have an important say in the elections, both with their votes and through their financial influence over family still in Fiji.
TUPOU DRAUNIDALO: We would like them to use that influence positively, to bring about real changes in Fiji. And our party has been strong in asking the electorate to not reward the coup maker by legitimising him in elections.
The next Fiji campaign meeting is for SODELPA - the new name for the mainly Fijian party of former Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, who was ousted in the 2006 military coup. He's speaking at a dinner for supporters in Auckland on Saturday.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: