Commonwealth Ousts Fiji Over Elections

| Tue Sep. 1, 2009 11:54 AM EDT

As writer Anna Lenzer found out first-hand, Fiji's government is run by a military junta that's suspended the national constitution and delayed elections for years. The dictatorship took power in a 2006 coup and has used the excuse of "emergency rule" to extend its reign indefinitely. Three years has been enough for the Commonwealth, however, which has suspended Fiji's membership until its government re-installs democracy.

The Commonwealth, made up of 53 former British colonies and territories, said it suspended Fiji's membership after the government failed to meet today's deadline to set a date for democratic elections. The elections were to be held before October 2010, but as Fiji only continues to insist it will hold elections in 2014, the Commonwealth lived up to its word and suspended it. Although Fiji was kicked out of the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this year, the Commonwealth may hold a bit more sway as it provides funding to the nation, and allows them to compete in the Commonwealth Games. Both funding and athletic participation are suspended until Fiji meets the Commonwealth's requirements.

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Despite this, the suspension isn't expected to have any significant effects on the nation. Professor Vijay Naidu, from the University of the South Pacific, told Radio New Zealand that there won't be much material difference as Fiji isn't dependent on foreign assistance, but that it will tarnish the country's image. And that could be disastrous because tourism is one of Fiji's major industries, already suffering the effects of the recession. Luckily for Fiji, it doesn't look like the American-owned Fiji Water (which claims to make up 3% of the nation's GDP) is leaving anytime soon.