21 Oct 2013

Fiji Labour Party says election consultants step towards free and fair elections

5:54 pm on 21 October 2013

Fiji's Labour Party leader says the arrival of international election consultants is a step towards free and fair elections but history may yet repeat itself.

Mahendra Chaudhry says he is still doubtful about whether an election will proceed despite experts from Australia, New Zealand the European Union coming to Fiji to help with preparations.

The regime has promised to hold elections next September.

Mr Chaudhry told Amelia Langford that the regime took little notice of independent advice when it came to the country's constitutional review and doubts things will change now.

MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY: For the elections, we are not very certain whether there will be elections. I've always said it's a bit doubtful. Nonetheless, we'll wait until an electoral commission is appointed, a supervisor of elections is appointed and the electoral laws are written up. As you know, we've got six experts - two from New Zealand, two from Australia and two from the EU - writing up our electoral laws. So until such time as all this work is done we can't really be serious about elections.

AMELIA LANGFORD: Those election consultants, does that boost your confidence about this election going ahead?

MC: Well, we'll have to wait and see until this process is completed. So we'll wait and see how this eventuates.You will remember that we had a Ghai Commission doing up our constitution. And once they had done their report that report was trashed by the regime. So these are the uncertainties in the way. So until such time as something crystallises we can't really talk about the elections with any degree of certainty.

AL: You've learnt from previous experience?

MC: Absolutely. It's based on what's transpired. Elections were promised twice - they were not held. The constitution review, the Ghai Commission report was trashed. So there is a string of these events which have taken place where the regime has gone back on its word. So this is another experience we're going through. We'll have to wait and see what comes out of it.

AL: And are you at all concerned that the regime may issue another decree, or amend the law so parties have to do something else to be registered?

MC: Well, anything is possible, as you know, under a dictatorship. And they make laws according to their own whims. Whether there is any rationale or any logic behind it is immaterial. They do what they want to do and then a decree pops up. So anything is possible.

AL: In an ideal world, what would be the best situation now, in terms of how the regime proceeds with this election?

MC: Well, there's a lot of work still to be done before we can talk about elections seriously. Once we have the electoral law is in place, once the commission is appointed, once the supervisor of elections is appointed, then it becomes a question of how do we ensure the elections will be free, fair and credible?

Mahendra Chaudhry also says he is still waiting for the regime's leaders to release their financial declarations, as is the requirement of any political party wanting to register.