7 Jun 2007

Forum team says Fiji elections possible next year

3:58 pm on 7 June 2007

A technical assessment has concluded that Fiji could hold elections as soon as November next year.

The assessment was conducted on behalf of the Joint Working Group set up by the Pacific Islands Forum and the Fiji interim government.

The Group was asked in April by Forum foreign minister to assess how soon a vote could be held after claims by the interim government that it would not be able to hold elections until 2010.

The assessment says before the next poll there should be a redistribution of constituency boundaries following a new census, an update of the voters' register, and voter education and information programmes.

It says an election in 17 months would require additional resources being given to the Bureau of Statistics to allow it to bring forward the census information.

The assessment shows there should only be minimal changes to voting procedures before the next vote.

It calls for outstanding appointments to the Constituency Boundaries Commission, the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Elections to be made without delay and warns there should be staffing continuity in the Elections Office.

It also says the interim government needs to ensure that the Elections Office is properly funded while international help should be provided for the boundary redistribution, voter registration update, voter education and information programmes, and to the Electoral Commission and the Election Office.

The New Zealand foreign minister, Winston Peters, has called on Fiji's interim government to respond positively to the assessment.

Mr Peters says the ministers will be watching the interim government's response closely.

Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has said elections will have to wait until 2009 while the interim finance minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, has said they won't be held before June 2010.

The last election was held in May of last year.