23 Nov 2009

Commonwealth urged to get tougher with non-democratic members

8:14 pm on 23 November 2009

There's a call for the Commonwealth to do more to promote democracy and to get tough on autocratic regimes.

A report to be presented at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting this week in Port of Spain, says many Commonwealth governments fail to encourage, or even countenance, open political competition.

It says instead they use state apparatus to repress dissent.

In September, the 53-nation Commonwealth suspended Fiji after the military regime failed to make steps to return the country to democracy.

The report suggests the Commonwealth should publish regular democracy health checks for each member state, inviting the judiciary, media and non-governmental groups to contribute.

It says rather than just acting against countries that have undergone coups or obviously rigged elections, the Commonwealth should speak out against regimes which are more subtle in their repression.

The report says the Commonwealth can play an important role in monitoring such processes and shaming those governments who fail to respect the association's basic political values.

It says promoting democracy should be the defining characteristic of the Commonwealth.