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Fiji coup leader rules out vote

Frank Bainimarama at UN aid conference, Doha, 29 Nov 08
International isolation does not bother coup leader Frank Bainimarama

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the military ruler of Fiji, has rejected a demand from the Commonwealth to prepare for elections.

The international body has set a six-month deadline for progress toward democracy under threat of expulsion.

Mr Bainimarama said there would be no election in the near future as it would probably "make things worse".

He ousted the elected government in a 2006 coup after which the Commonwealth suspended Fiji's membership.

Ministers and representatives from nine Commonwealth countries said after a meeting on Wednesday in London that they "deplored the fact that Fiji remained in contravention of Commonwealth values and principles".

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the world should do more to isolate Fiji's military regime - for example, by banning Fiji troops from serving on UN peacekeeping missions.

"This puts the UN in the quite undesirable position of supporting the instrument of Fiji's coup culture," he said after the meeting.

Defiance

There's going to be no election
Frank Bainimarama
Fiji coup leader

Mr Bainimarama told New Zealand's Radio Tarana that no pressure would move him.

"If they want to suspend Fiji they can go ahead and do it now," the commodore said.

His government already faces suspension from the Pacific Islands' Forum.

"No one is going to interfere in what we are trying to do, not New Zealand, not Australia, not anybody else. Nothing is going to be done. There's going to be no election.

"If we go into elections now it is not going to serve any purpose, it's probably going to make things worse for the people of Fiji."

He has previously stated that he will call elections only after he has changed the constitution and rewritten electoral law.

Broken promises

On Tuesday, the International Bar Association published a new report called "Dire Straits: A Report on the Rule of Law in Fiji".

It noted with concern the deteriorating situation of the judiciary in Fiji due to direct political interference.

The BBC's Ben Lowings notes that Mr Bainimarama has twice broken his own promises to hold elections by a certain date.

Fiji is already suspended from the decision-making level of the group of the Commonwealth. The body's latest ultimatum follows a visit to Fiji last month by Commonwealth officials trying to set up a political dialogue.

Fiji is the diplomatic and transport hub of the South Pacific and neighbouring island leaders are also losing patience with Fiji.

There was an unprecedented attack last month from the veteran prime minister of Samoa. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi accused his Fijian counterpart of stealing public money.

Fiji was first suspended in 1987 following a coup led by Lt Col Sitiveni Rabuka. It was readmitted in 1997 after Rabuka made a formal apology to Queen Elizabeth II, but was again suspended when Mr Bainimarama abrogated the constitution in 2000. It was readmitted the next year, but suspended a third time when Bainimarama seized power in December 2006.

Fiji received about $700,000 (500,000) in direct technical aid from 2000 to 2006, but was also eligible for a share of a pan-Commonwealth pot of about $45m (32m).

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Country profile: Fiji
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