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Fiji must set high bar for healthy democracy

By Matt Thistlethwaite - posted Friday, 3 October 2014

On September 17 the people of Fiji voting for the first time in eight years elected interim Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama with a comfortable majority of 59 per cent of the vote, and a majority of the seats in the new 50 member unicameral Parliament.

I was in Fiji as a member of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) appointed to observe and report on the electoral process.

The MOG was made up of representatives of 15 countries and groups who travelled to all corners of the Fijian archipelago to oversee the vote.


I visited Labasa, a rural town on the northern island of Venua Levu. From what I observed in this sugar cane region the voting process ran smoothly and Fijians were excited and thankful that after eight years of rule by decree they had the opportunity to express their view on Fiji's future.

The MOG determined that the elections more broadly were a reflection of the will of the Fijian people.

Despite the accusations of media bias, restrictions on candidate nominations and a bizarre exhibition of Fijian military force the day before the election, the Fiji First Party won a clear majority of votes nationally and in most regions.

But there is more to democracy than holding elections.

The new Fijian Government must now prioritise restoring credibility and stability to its system of government if this nation with enormous potential is going to develop and grow.

The first step in this process must be to convene a Parliament with procedures and standing orders that are transparent and accountable.


The Fijian people desperately want to restore faith in their decision making. This will only be achieved if there is consultation and debate about proposed laws and policies that affect Fijians lives.

A free and independent media must be fostered, along with the abolition of the Media Decree and the introduction of a Freedom of Information law.

The friendship between Australia and Fiji has had its ups and downs, but In light of the success of this latest election we must now look to the future to work together and ensure the bar for Fiji's new era of government is set high so its people can finally enjoy all the freedoms of a full and healthy democracy.

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About the Author

Matt Thistlethwaite is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the MHR for Kingsford Smith.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Matt Thistlethwaite

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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