9 Jan 2019

No municipal elections for Fiji until "major reforms"

4:30 pm on 9 January 2019

Local council elections will not be held in Fiji until major reforms are made, the government says.

Lautoka City Council buildings

Lautoka City Council buildings Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Representative municipal councils were dumped in 2009 during military rule and since then Fiji's towns and cities have been run by government appointed administrators.

The new Minister for Local Government, Premila Kumar, has pointed to an old "flawed" election system and earlier low voter turnout among reasons for the delay.

The last local elections were held a year before the 2006 coup when Frank Bainimarama seized power.

Despite the restoration of elections for the national parliament in 2014, promised municipal council elections have not taken place.

Ms Kumar, came under fire for not being able to give a date for the polls, after talks with the Nadi Chamber of Commerce last week.

She said a lot of things needed to be done such as revising laws which were more than 40 years old and extending town and city boundaries.

Premila Kumar, Fiji's Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Local Government, Housing and Community Development

Premila Kumar, Fiji's Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Local Government, Housing and Community Development Photo: Facebook/Fijian Government

"Governance of Municipal Councils has been evolving and we need to look at different and effective governance structure that will give better returns to ratepayers."

In 2005, only 31 per cent of the population voted in local elections, she said.

"These numbers speak for itself and one can see the level of participation by rate payers.

"We cannot use the flawed election system that was introduced in 1972."

There was a need for a system based on global best practice, she said.

Critics said elected councillors were needed so ratepayers had democratic representation.

"It is sad and disturbing that the new minister will continue the procrastination and delay municipal elections just like her predecessor did for the past four years," Biman Prasad, leader of the opposition National Federation Party told the Fiji Times.

In a Tebbutt-Times poll in Fiji last year, two thirds of those surveyed wanted a return to elected mayors.

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