The Week Ahead: Rabuka puts 'disloyal' Fijians to the test

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The Independent Online
FIJI'S general election starts on Friday, with voting lasting a week. The Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, says the main issue is national leadership - by which he means the disloyalty of former allies who brought down his government. Mr Rabuka had to dissolve parliament in January, less than two years into his five-year term, after the opposition Fijian Association - founded by dissidents in the ruling Fijian Political Party - helped to defeat the budget in November. Mr Rabuka is deeply suspicious of their motives: 'The budget was just a convenient cover for their real agenda, which is to try to oust me from the prime minister's job. In their determination to do this they perpetrated a calculated act of political sabotage.'

The rise of the association, and a proliferation of smaller parties, means the next government will probably be a coalition, and we can expect much haggling over alliances when the votes are in.

There will doubtless be haggling in Nicosia on Thursday when leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities meet for talks on a UN package of confidence-building measures designed to find a way of ending the island's 19-year division. Overcoming old divisions, Bulgaria's President, Zhelio Zhelev, and Latvia's Prime Minister, Valdis Birkavs, sign up for Nato's Partnership for Peace in Brussels today. They join six former Soviet-bloc countries in taking part in Nato activities, without the security guarantees that come with full membership.

Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) opens its conference on Sunday in Hamburg to draft the party's new programme. The Prime Minister of Saxony, Kurt Biedenkopf, may challenge Chancellor Helmut Kohl as party leader if polls suggest the CDU could lose October's general election.

This week sees the reappearance of some people who have been plagued by adverse publicity. 'Doctor Death' Jack Kevorkian is due to appear in court tomorrow in the US for his part in the 'assisted suicide' last August of Thomas Hyde, a sufferer from Lou Gehrig's disease. On Wednesday in Panama City, the former president Manuel Noriega, charged with the murder of an army major who led a coup attempt in 1989, is to be tried in absentia. And Michael Jackson gives his first performance since he cancelled his world tour at 'The Jackson Family Honours', a charity benefit in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Romania's railway workers plan a one-hour strike on Wednesday over low wages and the slow pace of reforms. Their action coincides with a visit by Russia's Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, to Bucharest tomorrow and Wednesday. Romania's trade union body is also threatenening a general strike.

The Vatican is expected to publish the Pope's Letter for the Year of the Family on Wednesday, which will deal with the conjugal and moral issues raised in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor.

Greece's 'bar and nightclub curfew' starts today, obliging establishments to close by 2am or face heavy fines. The government hopes the measure will combat mounting crime and alcoholism, but proprietors complain they will be put out of business.

Also today, St Valentine's day, the Yves St Laurent fashion house is to distribute 200,000 condoms throughout Paris to promote its menswear collection and safe sex.