9 Jul 2009

Little hope held for early return to democracy in Fiji

1:34 pm on 9 July 2009

Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith says there is little confidence Fiji will return to democracy in the short term.

Mr Smith says the abrogation of the constitution in April and a recent speech by Commodore Frank Bainimarama about elections in 2014 gives no confidence that there is any short-term prospect for advancement or for improvement.

But, he says, at some point in the process Fiji needs to be engaged in a dialogue about its return to democracy on a timetable which is much more realistic than that outlined by the Commodore.

Mr Smith says reports the military leader is lobbying other Melanesian countries to oppose Fiji's exclusion from the Pacific Island Forum are not a concern.

Radio New Zealand International reports the governments of Australia, the United States, Samoa and the Cook Islands last week reacted negatively to a "road map" announcement by Fiji.

New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum initially declined comment, but New Zealand Prime Minister John Key now says 2014 as an election date is far off the expectations held by Pacific leaders.