Fiji. In January, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and
his military regime rejected the proposal for a new
constitution that a Constitutional Commission had prepared
for six months. The Commission, led by a renowned Kenyan
lawyer and constitutional expert, had taken into account
Bainimarama's demand to guarantee impunity for all the
militaries who participated in the many coups that existed
in the country. But the proposed constitution limited the
military's power and demanded a transitional government
pending elections, and this was probably among other things
that Bainimarama could not accept. In December 2012, the
police had seized printed copies of the constitutional
proposal. But interested people could read some of it on the
Internet. The government now began to revise the
constitutional proposal itself.
In January, a decree was also issued that the country's
16 political parties would re-register within 28 days. The
requirements for registering a party were, among other
things, that it had at least 5,000 members and that the
party name is English. Government officials, defense
officials and trade union officials were not allowed to be
party members. The decree was criticized by party leaders
and trade unions.
Countryaah, the government presented its proposal for a new
constitution in March. The public was given two weeks to
comment. According to the government, the time was scarce if
one could hold elections by September 2014. Bainimarama
announced that he would stand for election himself.
In May, four parties were approved to stand for election.
In June, an appeals court in the capital Suva decided that
former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, who was deposed in
Bainimarama's coup in 2006, could not lead the Social
Democratic and Liberal party (Sodelpa) as he was sentenced
in 2012 to one year in prison for corruption. However, he
had been released in April 2013, after eight months in
In September, the new constitution came into force after
President Epeli Nailatikau approved it. The changes meant,
among other things, the abolition of the upper house and the
introduction of a single-chamber parliament with 50 members.
The regional constituencies disappeared and all of Fiji
became a single constituency. The human rights organization
Amnesty International criticized the constitution for
restricting freedom of speech and for giving the police the
opportunity to detain people indefinitely without suspicion
or trial. The organization was also critical of the military
being granted amnesty for serious crimes, such as torture,
in connection with previous coups.
In September, New Zealand eased its sanctions on Fiji,
which had been in place since the 2006 Bainimamaras coup.
Among other things, it reopened the exchange between
athletes and eased the entry ban, so that it only concerns
visits to prominent Fiji leaders. New Zealand also promised
to provide Fiji with financial support to conduct the
election, which is scheduled to be held before the end of
September 2014. New Zealand, together with Australia, is
historically Fiji's most important ally. But Bainimarama had
started seeking new allies and made state visits in 2013 in
both China and the Russian Federation.