It could take several years for Fiji to be reinstated to the Commonwealth, even if elections targeted for 2014 are successful, a Fijian academic says.
Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth overnight after failing to meet conditions, including holding early elections.
It was also suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in May, and the European Union has suspended aid to the military regime.
Military leader Frank Bainimarama, who overthrew the elected government in a December 2006 coup, has said he intends holding elections by September 2014.
Dr Steven Ratuva, from the University of Auckland’s Centre for Pacific Studies, said the suspension would have a marginal impact on the general Fijian population.
Ratuva said it would affect Commonwealth scholarships and job opportunities around the globe for Fijians within Commonwealth organisations.
But Fiji had already experienced prolonged isolation from the Commonwealth and, economically, it was likely to have little effect.
Ratuva said the suspension had long been on the cards, but the 2014 election date had been all but set in stone for some time as well.
When Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth following a military coup in 1987, elections were next held in 1992, but reinstatement did not come until 1997.
It was possible that even if there were successful elections in 2014, complex and lengthy procedures meant it could take years for Fiji to be reinstated to the Commonwealth, Ratuva said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said democracy under-pinned the Commonwealth, and Fiji had been given plenty of warning about falling out of line.
But New Zealand didn’t intend imposing any further sanctions, and there was now little it could do but show patience.
Former governor-general Sir Paul Reeves is set to travel to Fiji within the next 10 days as the Commonwealth Secretary General’s representative for talks with the regime.
Sir Paul said the situation was sensitive and any public comment would come after, rather than before, discussions took place.
Labour leader Phil Goff said the suspension was regrettable but inevitable given Fiji’s failure to take steps to restore democracy.
“We will continue to look for signs of a commitment that Fiji will head down the road to democracy. But until we see signs of progress, restoring a relationship with Fiji is not possible,” Goff said.
The ban means the Fijian government will be excluded from participation at all inter-governmental Commonwealth meetings or activities.
It also means no Commonwealth technical assistance can be provided to Fiji, with the exception of assistance aimed at facilitating the restoration of democracy.
Contact at professional and non-governmental levels with Fiji counterparts will be left to the discretion of individual pan-Commonwealth organisations.