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Voter verdict in India, Fiji could impact us

The general election, due to be held on September 20, 2014 would be important for the Indian community. In fact, the way that the polls are tracking, the Indian community could well decide the next Government.

But there are two other elections that will occupy our minds.

The Fiji election will be held on September 17, just three days before New Zealand goes to polls. It could have enormous impact on the Indo-Fijian community here and in Fiji.

Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama’s decision to set a date is welcome.

Since he launched his coup in December 2006 New Zealand and other Pacific countries have been insisting that he reinstate democratic rule.

Throughout 2007 to 2009, election dates were announced and then postponed. Therefore, it is good that he has followed through with his commitment.

Good move

As a result, New Zealand has lifted travel bans on Fiji that had applied to Mr Bainimarama, ministers, military personnel, their families, officials and the judiciary.

I support the Government’s move. Some have criticised this easing as being too soon, that there are still restrictions on opposition groups that will impede their chances in the election.

My belief is that it’s important that New Zealand shows good will.

It is often much easier to make headway with those outstanding issues through constructive dialogue. In other words, carrots sometimes work better than sticks. Lifting the travel bans also ensures that we take a similar line to Australia and other Pacific countries.

Fiji has always been more than just a neighbour: there are strong familial and cultural connections to New Zealand. We therefore welcome them back in the democratic fold.

The Indian scene

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest democracy shows us how it’s done with organisation revving up across India to enable more than 814 million electors to have their say. The elections will take place in 930,000 polling stations making use of an estimated 1.2 million electronic voting machines.

The number enrolled to vote is 97 million up from the last election, a staggering figure, of which 20% will be first time voters.

Democracy is alive and very well in India and is an example to the rest of the world.

For most, the issues are corruption, the threat of terrorism, poverty and jobs.

While early polling shows Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the lead, neither this Party nor the Congress Party is expected to attain an absolute majority. Therefore, how the minor parties would line up may decide the next Government.

So ti is a big year for democracy in three countries, in each of which Indians will decide their own future.

David Shearer is a Member of Party elected from Mt Albert and is Labour Party spokesman for Foreign Affairs and Energy. Read related stories elsewhere in this issue.

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