LONDON, (Reuters) – The Commonwealth said yesterday it would take tougher action against Fiji in September unless it had moved to hold elections by then.
A group of Commonwealth ministers met in London to consider the situation in Fiji, where military leader Frank Bainimarama appointed himself prime minister after staging a coup in 2006.
Bainimarama has recently gone back on a promise to hold elections in the first quarter of 2009. He says Fiji must first change its racially based electoral system, which he blames for past instability in the coup-plagued nation.
In a statement, the Commonwealth ministers said they deplored the fact that Fiji contravened the principles of the Commonwealth, a grouping of 53 countries, mainly former British colonies.
Fiji had not stuck to its March 2009 deadline for holding elections and had not indicated an alternative date, it said.
Fiji is already suspended from Commonwealth meetings but the Commonwealth said it could go further if Fiji failed to make enough progress.
If a country is fully suspended, it loses access to Commonwealth advice and technical assistance. Commonwealth member states are encouraged to take further steps such as limiting government-to-government contacts.
In January, South Pacific island leaders gave Fiji until May 1 to set a date for elections in 2009 or face possible suspension from the 15-nation Pacific Islands Forum.