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4.12.2009

Fiji's Constitution "Repealed"

Fiji’s unstable constitutional bargain unraveled again last week as President Ratu Josefa Iloilo repealed the country’s constitution and reappointed the military chief as interim prime minister. The move followed a decision by the Court of Appeal, the country’s highest court, to overturn a lower court decision rejecting a challenge to the government’s legality. The Court of Appeal thus declared the country’s government to have been illegally installed after the 2006 coup. President Iloilo responded by dismissing the judges and establishing a “new legal order.” He promised new elections within five years, without stipulating what rules would govern them.

Since the ethnic Indian-dominated coalition won the general election in 1987, Fiji has witnessed a series of new constitutions and four coup d’etats. The 2006 coup, unlike its predecessors, was directed at an ethnic Fijian-led multiparty government, and this recent turn of events reflects the now-dominant role of the military in Fijian politics. International pressure has picked up, but it seems most probable that, at some point, a new round of constitutional drafting may be initiated.

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