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FIJI’S CHAUDHRY PUSHES FOR EXPEDITED ELECTIONS Nation’s former leader points to worsening economy

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 23, 2011) - The leader of Fiji's Labour Party has called for fresh elections to replace the coup-installed military government within a year and a half.

The interim government says elections will be held in 2014, but Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhury says the President should initiate a dialogue to hasten the country's return to democracy.

He says the present regime is presiding over a worsening economy, rising poverty and there is no discussion about future directions.

[PIR editor’s note: Mahendra Chaudhry, a former Fiji prime minister and the first Indo-Fijian to achieve that milestone, was ousted by military coup in 2000 and subsequently replaced by former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. Qarase himself was ousted, by military commander Frank Bainimarama, in 2006. Chaudry was named Finance Director under the Bainimarama Regime in 2007 but resigned in 2008.]

Mr. Chaudhury told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat he was initially in favor of the 2006 coup, but his stance has changed.

My participation in the regime was on the basis of getting the country back to democracy as soon as possible and ... elections were then promised for April 2009, but that didn't happen," he said.

"So as far as our party's participation is concerned, it was not going to stay there forever but to set the framework for a return to democracy, and this hasn't happened and it's taking a long time."

[PIR editor’s note: RNZI reports Bainimarama has rejected claims that there will be no elections in 2014 and asserts elections will be held in that year.]

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