On 17 September 2014, Fiji went to the polls for the first time
since 2006 – an important step in returning the country to
democracy after eight years of rule by an unelected military-led
In the lead-up to the election, 591,000 people were registered to
vote (93% of the eligible population). The Fiji Elections Office ran
a nationwide voter education campaign.
Although some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were
able to contribute to voter education, most were prevented
from playing a meaningful role by a provision in the Electoral
Decree that prevented NGOs in receipt of foreign funding from
conducting election-related activities. With stiff penalties existing
for breaching the decree, including large fines, and a maximum
10-year prison sentence, the decree restricted civil society’s
participation in voter education.
Fiji received considerable outside support to run the election,
including from Australia, the UK and EU. The UK’s primary
human rights objective in 2014 was to provide targeted
support to restore democracy. We funded the development
of an Information Management System for tabulating the
election results, training for police officers on their roles and
responsibilities during the election, and a three-day seminar
for media professionals on parliamentary reporting, with the
UN Development Programme. The Welsh National Assembly
and Scottish Parliament also provided advice on infrastructure
requirements for the new parliament.
On polling day, a turnout of 84% was recorded. Anyone under
26 was voting for the first time in their life. 248 candidates,
representing five political parties and two independents,
contested 50 seats in the single constituency election. A
Multinational Observer Group (MOG), co-led by Australia,
Indonesia and India, observed the election at the invitation of
the Fijian government. The MOG comprised 92 observers from
13 countries, including five UK observers, headed by Meg Munn
MP. An EU team also participated.
The MOG declared the election had been conducted in “an
atmosphere of calm, with an absence of electoral misconduct or
evident intimidation, and was broadly representative of the will
of the Fijian voters”.
Plans to form a domestic election observer mission were rejected
by the Minister for Elections. The negative effect of restrictions
placed upon civil society was particularly noted by the MOG.
There was widespread media coverage, with 450 journalists
covering the election. However, some local media, whilst
reporting the views of all parties, remained biased towards
the government. MOG observers noted that, “the regulatory
framework for the election limited the media’s ability to
rigorously examine the claims of candidate and parties”.
After his Fiji First party won a comfortable majority, Voreqe
Bainimarama was sworn in as Prime Minister. Eight women were
elected to parliament, with one becoming speaker. Although
women only occupy 14% of seats, this is the highest proportion
ever. Following the election, the Commonwealth and the Pacific
Island Forum both lifted their suspensions on Fiji’s membership.
The UK will focus future efforts in Fiji around strengthening
democratic institutions, free speech, civil society, and human