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Fiji president suspends constitution after court declares government illegal

[JURIST] Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile] announced Friday that he was suspending [statement text] the country's constitution [text], and revoking the appointment of all judicial officers, after the Fiji Court of Appeal on Thursday ruled [JURIST report] his appointment of military officer Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama [BBC profile] as Prime Minister unconstitutional. Iloilo had appointed Baininmara following a 2006 coup [JURIST report], but the Court of Appeal ordered him to appoint a civilian replacement for Baininmara until democratic elections could be held. Iloilo said that despite the action, other existing laws would continue to be enforced and that he would reconstitute the country's judiciary in coming days. He also said that Friday's moves were necessary to preserve law and order and to allow him to enact certain reforms before future election, saying the decision:

not only gives certainty but provides stability and the opportunity to carry out reforms which are crucial before true democratic elections can be held. In this respect I believe that a period of 5 years is necessary for an interim government to put into place the necessary reforms and processes.I shall also direct the soon to be appointed Interim Government to hold true democratic and parliamentary elections by September 2014 at the latest.
After the announcement, US State Department [official website] spokesman Richard Aker criticized [press release] Iloilo's decision, saying it was a step backwards for the country, and calling on Fiji to continue to recognize rights outlined in the suspended constitution.

In October, a Fijian lower court had dismissed [JURIST report] a legal challenge to the 2006 coup brought by deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase [BBC profile]. The Fijian government has defended the coup as legal [JURIST report] because Iloilo had reserve powers that permitted him to dismiss the government and appoint new leaders, and he had given his permission to Bainimarama. Two days after the coup in December 2006, an interim prime minister had said that the coup was technically "illegal" [JURIST report] but necessary.

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