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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07SUVA290
2007-05-24 21:57:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Suva
Cable title:  

ASSESSMENT TEAM OPTIMISTIC ON EARLY FIJI ELECTION

Tags:   PGOV  SOCI  FJ 
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VZCZCXRO6356
PP RUEHPB
DE RUEHSV #0290/01 1442157
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 242157Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY SUVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0076
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1693
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 1264
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1460
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SUVA 000290 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2017
TAGS: PGOV SOCI FJ
SUBJECT: ASSESSMENT TEAM OPTIMISTIC ON EARLY FIJI ELECTION


Classified By: CDA TED MANN, REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)



1. (C) Summary: An independent assessment team commissioned
to consider how soon post-coup Fiji could hold elections
will issue its report to the Pacific Islands Forum-Fiji
interim government joint working group June 7. The team is
optimistic that three of the crucial steps necessary for
new elections in Fiji -- a census, redistricting and voter
registration -- can be accomplished with relative little
difficulty and in time to permit an election within two
years. Whether Fiji's crippled election office will be
able to then carry out the election itself is, in the
team's view, another matter and still not clear. The
assessment team found most Fiji government agencies
involved in the pre-election preparatory process to be
relatively well equipped and ready to do the jobs necessary
to lay the groundwork for elections. The team said it
thought the relevant agencies would welcome U.S. support,
either in the form of financial support or technical
expertise. End summary.



2. (C) A four-member independent assessment team tasked
with looking at the timeline for an election to return Fiji
to democracy has told us it thinks the processes of
executing and evaluating the planned 2007 national census
and redrawing Fiji electoral districts in preparation for
new national elections will take significantly less time
than some have predicted. The team told PolOff May 24 that
based on the current state of readiness, the preliminary
results of the census, planned for September 16, will be
ready six weeks later. The final results will be out by
the end of March 2008, and census officials don't
anticipate any significant discrepancies between the
initial results and the final ones. The team said their
visit to the national lands office, responsible for surveys
and mapping, had reassured them that the redistricting work
that will flow on from the census results will be done
quickly and correctly. The manpower, expertise and
required computer software is ready and waiting, according
to the assessment team.



3. (C) The assessment team consists of New Zealand
elections expert Paul Harris; Canadian elections logistics
expert Bruce Hatch; and former Fiji boundaries
commissioners Dr. Kesaia Seniloli and Barrie Sweetman. The
team was commissioned by the joint working group. The
team's terms of reference required the four to assess "the
minimum time required to prepare for and conduct the next
parliamentary elections in Fiji, under conditions that
would ensure such elections were free, fair and credible."
Sweetman told us the group had concluded that the
boundaries of Fiji's 1,600 electoral "enumeration areas"
would, in fact, have to be redrawn, as was widely

expected. He said the team's visit to Fiji's lands office
had left them with the strong impression that, once the
preliminary census data are available in early November,
the lands office was well prepared to carry out the
re-districting, using "MapInfo" software. "The lands
people are on top of it," he said.



4. (C) Sweetman said that once the census was done and the
redistricting complete, the elections office would have to
begin the process of registering voters. He noted that,
from a purely logistical standpoint, the registration does
not present a major challenge. He said census officials
estimate that only about 80,000 new and revised
registration records were likely, the result of new voters
reaching the age of majority and the redistricting
exercise. The main problems with registering voters, he
said, are likely to arise within the elections office. The
elections office has come under fire from the interim
government and the military. The interim government has
sacked the former supervisor of elections and three of the
other four members of the electoral commission have
resigned; others in the office have also left or been
forced out since the coup. The office's funding runs out
in July, according to Harris, but the remaining civil
servants working there have, according to him, been assured
that the office will receive the necessary further
funding. (Note: The dismissed former election supervisor
is protesting his dismissal and has said he will take the
matter to court. On May 25, the media reported, however,
that his replacement has already been named, along with
three other new commissioners. End note.)



5. (C) The assessment team was careful not to discuss the
political ramifications of their work. The Forum

SUVA 00000290 002 OF 002


Secretariat had, in fact, only agreed to facilitate the

SIPDIS
meeting with PolOff after he made clear that the topic was
the logistics of the electoral process. Nonetheless,
Sweetman and the others gave all indications that they
believed there are no insurmountable logistical barriers to
holding an election within the 24-month timeframe favored
by the Forum's Eminent Persons Group, as opposed to the
36-month timeframe the interim government prefers. The
team will provide its findings to the joint working group
on June 7. Thereafter the report is supposed to go to the
Eminent Persons Group, and ultimately to the Forum foreign
ministers. No dates have been set for the latter reviews.



6. (C) Several of the team members inquired about USG
interest in supporting the electoral process, including the
census and redistricting process. Poloff noted our
interest in a fair and timely election and said we would
consider providing appropriate support or assistance.
MANN