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Pacific region has good story to tell about democracy

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully says the region has a good story to tell about making democracy work in small island states.

He was speaking at a gathering of regional leaders and academics on democracy in the Pacific.

Mr McCully says there is cause for optimism with most Pacific countries ranked well internationally in terms of governance.

He highlighted Samoa’s stable government led by a prime minister who would have few peers as a regional statesman and Tonga as a rare example where a reigning monarch has given up power.

“In fact I would go far as to say that Tonga far too little credit internationally for the extraordinary transition that has taken place in a very short period of time, sure there will always be speed wobblers from time to time but this is been a dramatic and I believe a significantly successful transition.”

Mr McCully says there are encouraging signs in Fiji but the question is whether the 2014 elections will be free and fair.

He says Wellington will increasingly focus on encouraging civilianisation of the interim government by exempting new appointees and some that have been in government for a while from travel sanctions.

He says one of the greatest challenges in Fiji will be ensuring the military respects the will of the people when elections take place.