Fiji’s controversial prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, might elect himself as president and style his leadership on the all-powerful US model to rule the troubled nation, a leading academic has warned.
An announcement is expected next week on who will replace the ailing 88-year-old Ratu Josefa Iloilo who retired last month.
The acting president, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, is seen as a leading contender for the job, but Fiji academic Steven Ratuva says Bainimarama may choose to take the job himself and reconfigure it to become an Obama-type figure in Fiji.
“Frank Bainimarama himself might take over the position and reconfigure the whole power and institutional structures around him,” said Dr Ratuva, a political sociologist at New Zealand’s University of Auckland.
“(That way) the president has more power, something like a US presidential system where he becomes the commander in chief of the army as well as the chief executive of the state and head of state as well.”
The academic said there was speculation about the shift, especially as Bainimarama claimed to be president for several weeks following the December 2006 coup when he seized power.
Fiji has become increasingly isolated in recent months over the regime’s refusal to relinquish power and return democracy with an election.
In April, Bainimarama further angered world powers by abrogating the constitution, removing the judiciary, enforcing blanket media censorship controls and setting elections back to September 2014.
For this, the country was suspended from the key regional group, the Pacific Islands Forum, and is facing expulsion from the Commonwealth on September 1 if it fails to hold elections in 2010.
A planned visit by a Commonwealth official to Fiji to reconcile differences was last week cancelled due to a clash in diary dates.