AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND TO UNDERWRITE FIJI ELECTIONS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 30) – The Australian government will give FJ$4 million (US$2.3 million) to the Fiji Elections Office for next year's general elections.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs chief executive Isikeli Mataitoga said the money would be presented today by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

A statement from the Ministry of Information said Mr Downer would meet electoral commissioners Ratu Semi Seruvakula, Fatiaki Misau, MK Sahu Khan and Emelita-Wendt Wilson.

They and New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, Michael Green, are expected to sign a tripartite agreement today at the Elections Office.

New Zealand has also committed FJ$6.2 million (US$3.6 million) to conduct the election.

New Zealand's Associate Foreign Minister Marian Hobbs said the funds would be made by NZAid and would go toward a program of technical support including training of Election Office staff in the coming year.

Ms Hobbs said discussions in the past 18 months revealed the Fiji Government would contribute FJ$10million this year and about FJ$15million next year.

"Although the 2006 election is the focus of this assistance, we want to ensure future elections are run successfully and both Australia and New Zealand have committed to on-going work with the Electoral Office to ensure an accurate and reliable voter-registration system."

September 30, 2005

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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