Fiji 'progressing well' towards election

Julie Bishop has been impressed by the number of voters registering to cast a ballot in Fiji's upcoming poll, the first in nearly 10 years.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is confident Fiji's coming elections will be a success and vindicate Australia's controversial move to rekindle ties with the military-led nation.

Fiji will hold elections on September 17, the first since the country's leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a military coup in 2006.

The Abbott government lifted Australia's travel bans on senior Fijian military and government figures in March as a goodwill gesture ahead of the much-awaited poll.

Its reversal of Australia's isolationist policy towards the Bainimarama regime - maintained during the Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments - wasn't without controversy.

It's understood some within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were keen to see the outcome of the election before granting concessions to Commodore Bainimarama.

But the government is confident it made the right call and is hoping its re-engagement with Fiji translates into a free and fair poll come voting day.

"Had we not changed our approach to Fiji, Australia would have been excluded from the electoral process," Ms Bishop told AAP from Samoa.

"I believe it is far preferable to engage with Fiji and work with them to assist them rather than continue to punish them for events from 2006."

Australia already has sent officials to Suva as part of a multi-national observation team to oversee the run-up to the poll.

Former Liberal minister Peter Reith was named head of Australia's contingent.

Ms Bishop said reports from the ground suggested things were "progressing well", and she'd been impressed by the number of registered voters and political parties wanting to partake in the poll.

Commodore Bainimarama offered Ms Bishop similar assurances in person in August during a campaign stop in Sydney to drum up support from the country's Fijian community ahead of the poll.

Amnesty International has been less glowing, documenting ongoing cases of political violence, intimidation and torture by Fijian security forces under Commodore Bainimarama's control.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute's executive director Peter Jennings said Ms Bishop was right to take a "forward-leaning approach" to Fiji, even if DFAT disagreed.

The real test lay in how Commodore Bainimarama would react to the election outcome.

"That will be the sensitive point," Mr Jennings told AAP recently.

But it would be a major achievement for the region if Fiji returned to the diplomatic fold and Ms Bishop would deserve credit, he said.

Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2009 after Commodore Bainimarama failed to meet a deadline to return it to democracy.

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