Commonwealth calls for Fiji elections

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Frank Bainimarama seized power in 2006, ousting an elected prime minister

The Commonwealth has called for credible elections in Fiji, after its military ruler announced he would lift martial law.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma welcomed the announcement but said it was "long overdue", and urged a return to democracy.

Australian leader Julia Gillard said more action was needed from Fiji.

Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup, ousting elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

He has not held elections since, despite calls from the international community. Fiji remains suspended from the Commonwealth and is the subject of international sanctions.

New constitution

Cmdr Bainimarama imposed the emergency law - which censored the media and banned public meetings - after the Fiji Appeal Court ruled that his coup was illegal. The constitution was also repealed.

In a new year's speech, he said that the law would be lifted so that consultation on a new constitution could begin ahead of elections in 2014.

The Commonwealth welcomed the announcement on the constitution.

"The Secretary-General hopes that such consultations will be fully inclusive and time-bound, and that they will lead to a genuine national consensus on the constitution, clearing the way for credible elections and the return of a democratically elected government without further delay," its statement said.

Australian leader Julia Gillard said the end of emergency rule was a "first step", but that more was needed.

"We do want to see action. We do want to see democracy restored," she told a news conference.

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