July 2023 | Parliament weakens restrictions on registration
Fiji’s parliament passed a bill allowing voters to register using the name by which they are commonly known on 11 July, overriding a 2021 law that required voters to register using a name that matched their birth certificate. The previous law was criticized as discriminating against women who took their spouse’s surnames with marrying, as it required them to legally change their name on their birth certificate in order to register to vote.
May 2023 | Great Council of Chiefs re-convened after 16 year suspension
The Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) re-convened for the first time after 16 years of suspension on Bau Island. Established by the British colonial rulers as an advisory body in 1876, it was suspended in 2007 by then-prime minister Frank Bainimarama, who accused it of interfering in politics and inciting racial tension – the body is only open to members of the hereditary iTaukei aristocracy and not Indo-Fijians or other minorities. Bainimarama suspended it by decree in 2012. The coalition government has says the reconvened GCC will be an advisory body to safeguard, collaborate and promote inclusivity across all Fijian ethnic groups.
April 2023 | Parliament repeals Media Industry Development Act
On 6 April, the Fijian Parliament repealed the Media Industry Development Act (MIDA), a decree passed by the then-military government in 2010. The MIDA was criticized by journalists and media rights groups as a tool to harass and intimidate critical journalists and a “noose around the neck of the media industry and journalists.” Repealing the MIDA had been a major campaign promise of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and was welcomed by Fijian journalists and international press freedom advocates.
February 2023 | Fiji opposition leader Bainimarama suspended from parliament for three years
On 17 February ex-Prime Minister and opposition leader Frank Bainimarama was suspended from parliament for three years for sedition and insulting the president and ordered to apologize to the president and the public. The sentencing followed a previous parliamentary session in which Bainimarama criticized Fijian President Wiliame Katonivere for supporting the new government and accused him of having failed to uphold the constitution. Bainimarama, who ruled Fiji for 16 years after seizing power in a military coup, lost power in a national election in December, and since then the new government has taken steps to marginalize or remove officials appointed by Bainimarama. Although legal, the lengthy suspension is unprecedented in Fiji, with analysts noting both Bainimarama’s history of undermining democracy in Fiji and the uncertain consequences of removing one of the country’s most influential politicians from politics.