28 Oct 2008

Support change or elections will be delayed - Fiji leader

6:07 am on 28 October 2008

Fiji's interim prime minister has told political leaders they need to support his agenda of change, or there will be a delay in holding elections.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama was speaking at a meeting, which included the leaders of all the major political parties, in Suva.

It's the first such gathering since he took power a coup on 5 December, 2006.

The Commodore said a return to Parliamentary democracy does not mean simply convening an election and handing power back to the traditional, self-interested, leaders.

He said politicians should move forward through dialogue, confidence building and by developing a broad-based consensus for the change agenda.

Promie off

Commodore Bainimarama has previously promised to hold free elections before March 2009, but has since changed his position, saying the timeframe is unachievable.

Following the meeting, the Commodore said there was no quick or easy solution to Fiji's problems.

"Merely convening an election and handing power back to the old traditional type of self interested, elitist leaders and politicians will not be in the interest of the vast majority of the people of Fiji.

"Since April this year, we have been consistently pointing out that to restore democracy through a free and fair election, it is necessary to first change Fiji's electoral system," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama believes Fiji's communal voting system is racist and gives too much power to indigenous Fijians at the expense of other ethnic groups.

Laisenia Qarase, who was prime minister at the time of the coup, said there had been limited progress at the talks, but he was hopeful.

"It was a good meeting. I think we made some progress, not very significant progress at this point, but it is a positive," Mr Qarase said after the meeting ended.