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Fiji elections 'credible' but more work needed to restore democracy: UN

Fiji elections 'credible' but more work needed to restore democracy: UN

The August/September elections in Fiji were credible, but more work needs to be done to restore constitutional democracy in the country, according to a just-released United Nations report.

In his report to the General Assembly, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the Fiji vote reflected the will of the people of Fiji. According to the UN Electoral Observer Mission to Fiji, which monitored 96 per cent of polling stations, there was no evidence of systemic attempts to manipulate the electoral process for political gain.

There were, however, several complaints and a number of technical problems, including serious issues related to the electoral rolls, the report says. On this and other issues, the Mission has made suggestions to the authorities of Fiji, which it hopes will prove useful for the future.

According to the report, the preferential voting system prescribed by the Constitution of Fiji is considered by some to be unnecessarily complex and a cause of the high number of invalid votes. At the same time, it is recognized that the system was introduced to lessen the impact of the communal divide in Fiji. "The debate on whether the present system is indeed the best for Fiji will no doubt continue," the Secretary-General writes.

On the issue of returning to constitutionally democratic governance, the report says the post-election observation revealed several outstanding matters, including the establishment of a multiparty Cabinet, as required by section 99 of the Constitution. This, in turn, is related to the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition and the Senate membership, the report says.

"Given the foregoing, there is still an opportunity to assist and support Fiji in its expressed determination to return to full constitutional democracy," the report says. "Continued participation by the United Nations is made viable, and its potential to contribute well served, by the credibility established by the Mission during its time in Fiji."