27 Mar 2007

Leading academic on Fiji says prospects of democratic elections way off

3:22 pm on 27 March 2007

A leading academic on Fiji says the prospects of democratic elections are a long way away despite pressure for a roadmap to elections.

Dr Jon Fraenkel, who has just left the University of the South Pacific for the Australian National University, was speaking after the appointment of a senior military officer as acting permanent secretary for justice.

He's the third officer to be seconded to a senior position in a government department.

These also follow on from the almost clean sweep made by the military in the appointment of interim ministers to the regime.

Dr Fraenkel believes the military wants to redraw the political landscape but is publicly saying something else as the reason for a delay in elections.

"They've said that the reason for this is because of the technical requirements of holding a census, and drawing up new boundaries and streamlining the electoral system. The reality is that the reason why they want to delay elections, is because they want to change the political contours of Fiji politics. There's a real new broom sweeping through."

Dr Fraenkel says pressure coming from the E.U. and the Commonwealth may lead others in the cabinet to try to persuade the commander to agree to earlier elections.