9 Jan 2014

Fiji regime not serious about elections - UFDF

4:13 pm on 9 January 2014

The Fiji political opposition grouping, the United Front for a Democratic Fiji, says the broken promises made by the regime in 2013 show it is not serious about a democratic election this year.

One of its leaders, Mick Beddoes, says Frank Bainimarama announced he would step down as Commander of the military, announce his replacement and promised the release of a new Electoral Decree.

He told Amelia Langford that these broken promises will be added to what he calls the litany of lies of the past six years, including undisclosed salaries, benefits given to the Military and corruption.

MICK BEDDOES: Right now we are just sort of waiting on, a) the Electoral Act, and of course the Electoral Act will tell us how the elections are being planned to be run. And that's what we're keen to understand.

AMELIA LANGFORD: And this Electoral Act, is there any indication that this is coming out any time soon?

MB: Well, this is one of the undertakings or the promises made in 2013. It's supposed to have been out before the end of 2013. Because the Electoral Act is the rules of engagement and tells us how they're going to work the election and run the election, so obviously around that all the political parties will then be able to finalise their various election strategies. So that's not out yet.

AL: So it leaves the political parties in a bit of a limbo land, doesn't it?

MB: Well, it's kind of a wait-and-see game. Obviously we're all waiting and we can only go by what they've said. They were going to have it out by the end of 2013 and it's still not out. And we're supposed to have general elections in September.

AL: So according to the constitution, the Constitutional Officers Commission will include the leader of the opposition, so would that be you? How is that going to work?

MB: Oh, I don't think that would be me at all. Again, I find that a little strange because in past constitution, certainly those people who are members of the electoral commission and other bodies can't stand for election, so they're assuming that the leader of the opposition is one acquires after one gets into parliament. So I don't understand how they intend to make that work. Does that mean that if you're the leader of the opposition and you're a member of that commission, does that mean that that does not preclude you from standing for elections? I don't know the answer to that, so I find that rather strange that the leader of the opposition would be a person included. Now, they're starting from fresh and there is no leader of the opposition, so I would have to assume they'll probably appoint one. As it stands, if you take it from what it was at the time of the coup the leader of the opposition, even in the 1997 constitution, it's a constitution requirement that the leader of the opposition stays in office, remains in office until the election of the next prime minister. So technically I'm supposed to still be the opposition leader. And that's based on the 1997 constitution. But I doubt very much that they had that in mind when they were looking at the inclusion of the opposition leader in their constitution set-up. I stand to be corrected on that, but it seems rather strange to me.

AL: Even if this person, the leader, was included in the commission, would you feel confident that they'd be able to have much say?

MB: I would imagine, if they're going to select their own leader of the opposition, then obviously it's going to be somebody from within their ranks and that person would simply go along for the ride. If they are talking about a legitimate leader of the opposition and they're looking at me, well, they're going to be in for a tough time if that were the case. That's why I can't understand how or why they would do that. And I can only assume that the intent of this was... it's assumed that after the parliament was elected and you have a leader of the opposition and that becomes the member of that commission, but then again does that mean to say that the commissioners are eligible to stand for elections? So if that's the case then where is the impartiality?