Fiji passes new constitution that raises both hopes and concerns about path to democracy

Fiji has passed a new constitution, a step raising both hopes and concerns among many who want democracy restored to the South Pacific island nation.

The military regime that seized power in a 2006 coup says the constitution is another step toward free elections next year.

But many say the document curtails certain freedoms and is self-serving to the regime.

It's the country's fourth constitution since 1970.

Fiji's leader Frank Bainimarama said the constitution enshrines principles including an independent judiciary, a secular state, and a range of civil, political, and socio-economic rights.

Bainimarama plans to contest next year's elections.

Fiji police on Friday arrested about a dozen people, including a former prime minister, who were apparently peacefully protesting the new constitution, highlighting the restrictions opposition groups continue to face.