Fiji sets September 17 for return to democracy

Agence France-Presse
Fiji President Epeli Nailatikau 'has signed off September 17, 2014 as the day set aside for Fiji's election,' a ministry of information statement said

SUVA, Fiji – Fiji’s military rulers on Friday, March 28, set September 17 as the date for the South Pacific nation’s first democratic elections in nearly eight years following a military coup.

President Epeli Nailatikau “has signed off September 17, 2014 as the day set aside for Fiji’s election,” a ministry of information statement said along with the release of an election decree.

The announcement came three weeks after coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama relinquished his military command so he could contest the elections as a civilian.

The 59-year-old will remain as interim prime minister until the vote.

After toppling the democratically elected government of Laisenia Qarase in December 2006, Bainimarama tore up the island’s constitution saying it aggravated racial divisions between the indigenous majority and ethnic Indian minority.

A replacement document, adopted last year, includes a ban on the military from political life.

Attorney-General and Elections Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told reporters that September 17, a Wednesday, will be a paid holiday in Fiji for the election.

Fiji’s former registrar of political parties and acting permanent secretary for justice, Mohammed Saneem, was appointed to supervise the polls.

After ignoring calls for a swift return to democracy following the coup, Fiji was subjected to a raft of sanctions including suspension from the Commonwealth and the influential 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum.

However, there has been an easing of some sanctions in recent weeks as plans for an election this year began to fall into place. –

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