Academic says Fiji regime in trouble for flouting decrees
An academic says the Fiji regime is tripping itself up with its own decrees.
An observer of Fiji politics says the Prime Minister's proposed political party is being tripped up by his regime's decrees and it may have trouble justifying allegations against it.
The Elections Office has confirmed it has received six objections to the registration of Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama's proposed Fiji First Party.
The party has 20 days to respond to those objections.
Auckland University's Dr Steven Ratuva says Fiji First is facing some serious allegations, and it seems the regime's electoral and political parties decrees are unworkable.
STEVEN RATUVA: Well I'm not really sure what's going to happen later, but the Elections Office has asked Fiji First to clarify some of those allegations and some of the objections raised in relation to its registration. So, they're going to go through very challenging times in terms of having to respond. Some of the allegations, some of which are quite serious - such as the use of the state logo as a party symbol. So they have 20 days to respond to these before they're eligible to registration and what will come out of it is, at this point in time, not very clear.
JAMIE TAHANA: So at this stage it does seem though that the elections office is taking this seriously, that they're treating Fiji First no differently to, say if it were Sodelpa or something?
SR: Yeah, we have two authorities involved in this. One is the police, which has been investigating some of the allegations [that Fiji First is] in breach of the electoral decree and secondly is the Electoral Office itself, which has received the objections to the registration of the Fiji First party. So Fiji First officials will have to respond to two sets of allegations; from the police on one hand and the Electoral Office on the other.
JT: How likely is it that Fiji First will be able to provide an adequate enough response to this given that the rules are quite strict?
SR: Well that's one of the ironies of the situation, because they're the ones that created those rules in hoping that it might regulate the behaviour of the various political parties, but little did they realise that they were going to be caught in that themselves. So most of the political parties have been registered and went through quite smoothly, but now they are the ones caught up in that and so they'll have to look for some magical means by which they can get out of it. For instance, they'll have to justify why they're using the government coat of arms and secondly, they should be able to draw the line between Prime Minister and the ministers going out to talk to the public about what they're doing and political campaigning. I mean, it's a very grey area in there and they will have to justify and draw the line somewhere and so I think the political parties which have put forward their objections are probably hoping that Fiji First gets into real trouble which means it will give them a real chance of winning the election.
JT: Does that show a kind of inadequacy with the two decrees surrounding the election in that they're unworkable?
SR: Yeah, I suppose by putting those restrictions, not only did it undermine the re-democratisation agenda, it was also going to restrict the way in which the people themselves are going to engage in the political debate. So while the various political parties managed to wriggle their way out of their various legal tight corners. Fiji First itself, which has been in power and they're the ones which created the decrees are probably realising now that they made a mistake and they're probably telling themselves, "why did we do this in the first place?" Because now they have to be subjected to the rules which they themselves created.
JT: Is there a likelihood though that because Fiji First is the party of Frank Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, that they could be afforded some kind of favourable treatment?
SR: That's probably part of the subtle psychology in there. They're hoping that as the party in power, as the ones who instigated the coup, as the dominant political force, as the party which has been in the limelight [they] probably thought that the rules were not going to apply to them, they were hoping it was going to be preferentially applied to them rather than, in a serious way, entrap them. So they're probably hoping that they will get away with this.
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