Fiji coup leader says he will run in election next year

SUVA (AFP) - Fiji's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama confirmed for the first time on Friday that he will stand in elections scheduled for the Pacific island nation next year.

Mr Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, said he believed he would win the poll, which will be held under a new constitution drafted by his military regime.

"I will stand for elections," he told reporters in Suva.

"I am confident that I will win, if not I won't be standing. I will have to form a party but I have not decided on who will stand with me."

Mr Bainimarama has previously been coy about his intentions in the elections, the first since he ousted the then prime minister Laisenia Qarase in 2006.

He tore up Fiji's constitution after the coup and assumed the title of prime minister, ruling by decree and introducing curbs on freedom of speech and assembly, as well as muzzling local media.

In January he ditched a draft constitution prepared by an independent academic panel and ordered his government to prepare a new one.

The original draft, never officially released, was believed to have called for the military, a key player in the four coups the Pacific nation has endured since 1987, to stay out of politics after the 2014 elections.

A month later the government issued a decree imposing restrictions on political parties and 14 of the 17 opposition parties were deregistered.

While Mr Bainimarama has pledged to hold elections in September next year, a similar vow to hold a poll in 2009 was never honoured, resulting in Fiji being suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum.