Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fiji bans political parties

Well, not in so many words. But it will be the effective outcome of their new party registration rules:

Fiji's military regime has imposed a draconian new decree on anybody planning to create a political party ahead of democracy-restoring elections promised for next year.


Under the decree the 16 previously registered political parties will have 28 days from Friday to re-register.

Previously a party needed 180 members to become registered. Now it must have 5000 and the initial registered number must not include police or military officers, trade union officials or various defined government officials.

With a Fiji population of only 870,000, the membership threshold appears to be a significant bar to creating any political party.

Even at the height of their popularity neither the Indian-dominated Fiji Labour Party nor the ethnic Fijian party Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua had 5000 registered members.

I'm not sure the regime has thought this through. They've spent the past six years calling for a new, non-ethnic electoral system, and the draft constitution provides one: a dual-level proportional representation system with regional lists and a national top-up. That proposal has wide acceptance - Fiji's political parties recognise the need for change in this area. But the new system requires political parties in order to function, and will not produce fair outcomes if there aren't any (or if there is only a single, regime-backed one). The regime's desire to punish those who spoke out over its treatment of the constitution commission and draft constitution seems to be at the direct cost of its supposed long-term objectives. Unless of course they've just decided to give up on the whole democracy thing after all...