Communal constituencies

Last updated

Coat of arms of Fiji.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Fiji

Communal constituencies were the most durable feature of the Fijian electoral system. In communal constituencies, electors enrolled as ethnic Fijians, Indo-Fijians, Rotuman Islanders, or General electors (Europeans, Chinese, Banaba Islanders, and others) vote for a candidate of their own respective ethnic groups, in constituencies that have been reserved by ethnicity. Other methods of choosing parliamentarians came and went, but this feature was a constant until their final abolition in the 2013 Constitution.

Fijians are a nation and ethnic group native to Fiji, who speak Fijian and share a common history and culture.

History

In 1904, the British colonial authorities reserved seven seats in the Legislative Council for European voters; in 1929, provision was made for wealthy Indians to elect one representative also. (Indigenous Fijians, however, were represented by nominees of the Great Council of Chiefs and did not vote directly for their representatives until 1966). Although the number allocated to the various ethnic communities varied over the years, the basic manner of election did not change. It avoided electoral competition between candidates of different races.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Legislative Council of Fiji

The Fijian Legislative Council was the colonial precursor to the present-day Parliament, which came into existence when Fiji became independent on 10 October 1970.

Great Council of Chiefs

The Great Council of Chiefs(Bose Levu Vakaturaga in Fijian, ग्रेट काउंसिल ऑफ चीफ्स in Fiji Hindi) was a constitutional body in the Republic of the Fiji Islands from 1876 to March 2012. In April 2007 the council was suspended, due to an unworkable relationship with Frank Bainimarama, leader of an "interim government" which came to power through military coup in December 2006. It was formally disestablished by decree in March 2012.

In the 1960s, the Indo-Fijian dominated National Federation Party (NFP) began to press for universal suffrage on a common voters' roll. Indigenous Fijian leaders opposed this demand, fearful that it would favour Indo-FIjians, who then comprised more than half of the country's population. As a compromise, a number of national constituencies were established, allocated ethnically but elected by universal suffrage, but 25 of the 36 seats in the Legislative Council remained communal.

National Federation Party Fijian political party

The National Federation Party is a Fijian political party founded by A.D. Patel in November 1968, as a merger of the Federation Party and the National Democratic Party. Though it claimed to represent all Fiji Islanders, it was supported, in practice, almost exclusively by Indo-Fijians whose ancestors had come to Fiji, mostly as indentured labourers, between 1879 and 1916.

Universal suffrage Political concept

The concept of universal suffrage, also known as general suffrage or common suffrage, consists of the right to vote of all adult citizens, regardless of property ownership, income, race, or ethnicity, subject only to minor exceptions. In its original 19th-century usage by political reformers, universal suffrage was understood to mean only universal manhood suffrage; the vote was extended to women later, during the women's suffrage movement.

National constituencies

National constituencies were a former feature of the Fijian electoral system. They were created as a compromise between demands for universal suffrage on a common voters' roll, and for a strictly communal franchise, with Parliamentary constituencies allocated on an ethnic basis and elected only by voters enrolled as members of specific ethnic groups.

Negotiations leading to independence from the United Kingdom were complicated by continuing demands from the NFP for a non-racial franchise. The death of the NFP founder A.D. Patel in October 1969, however, led to his replacement by Sidiq Koya, who was more flexible and enjoyed a personal rapport with Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the Chief Minister and leader of the Alliance Party, which represented mostly indigenous Fijians. Koya and Mara agreed to a compromise at a conference in London in April 1970, which reduced the ratio of communal constituencies over national constituencies and left open the possibility of a future move to a common voters' roll. They agreed to establish a 52-member House of Representatives with 27 communal and 25 national constituencies. Indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians were each allocated 12 communal constituencies; minority groups were allocated 3.

Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel, better known as A.D. Patel (1905–1969), was a Fiji Indian politician, farmers' leader and founder and leader of the National Federation Party. Patel was uncompromisingly committed to a vision of an independent Fiji, with full racial integration. He was one of the first to advocate a republic, an ideal not realized in his lifetime. He also advocated a common voters' roll and opposed the communal franchise that characterized Fijian politics.

Siddiq Moidin Koya (1924–1993) was a Fijian Indian politician, Statesman and Opposition leader. He succeeded to the leadership of the mostly Indo-Fijian National Federation Party (NFP) on the death of the party's founder, A. D. Patel, in October 1969, remaining in this post until 1977. He later served a second term as leader of the NFP, from 1984 to 1987.

Kamisese Mara President of Fiji

Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, CF, GCMG, KBE is considered the founding father of the modern nation of Fiji. He was Chief Minister from 1967 to 1970, when Fiji gained its independence from the United Kingdom, and, apart from one brief interruption in 1987, the first Prime Minister from 1970 to 1992. He subsequently served as president from 1993 to 2000.

The Fiji coups of 1987 were orchestrated by hardline Fijian ethno-nationalists who forced the abolition of the national constituencies, on the grounds that they gave a non-indigenous voters a say in who represented the indigenous Fijian community. The revised constitution made all parliamentary seats communal, with a built-in indigenous majority. 37 seats were allocated to indigenous Fijians and 27 to Indians, despite the near parity of their population numbers at that time. 5 seats were assigned to minority groups.

1987 Fijian coups détat

The Fijian coups of 1987 resulted in the overthrow of the elected government of Fijian Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra, the deposition of Elizabeth II as Queen of Fiji, and in the declaration of a republic. The first coup, in which Bavadra was deposed, took place on 14 May 1987; a second coup on 28 September ended the monarchy, and was shortly followed by the proclamation of a republic on 7 October. Both military actions were led by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, then third in command of the Royal Fiji Military Forces. Depending on perspective, one may view the event either as two successive coups d'état separated by a four-month intermission, or as a single coup begun on 14 May and completed with the declaration of the republic.

The constitution was revised again in 1997–1998. A constitutional commission chaired by Sir Paul Reeves, a former Governor General of New Zealand, recommended retaining 25 communal constituencies, along with 45 newly created open constituencies, to be elected by universal suffrage and contested by candidates from all races. The ruling Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and the National Federation Party (which had formerly advocated a common roll) saw the communal seats allocated to indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians respectively as their power base, and insisted on reversing the ratio. Consequently, 23 seats were allocated to indigenous voters, 19 to Indo-Fijians, 1 to Rotuman Islanders, and 3 to minority groups; the remaining 25 represented open constituencies.

Paul Reeves Viceroy, cleric

Sir Paul Alfred Reeves was a clergyman and civil servant, serving as Archbishop and Primate of New Zealand from 1980 to 1985 and 15th Governor-General of New Zealand from 22 November 1985 to 20 November 1990. He later served as the third Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology, from 2005 until his death.

Governor-General of New Zealand representative of the monarch of New Zealand

The Governor-General of New Zealand is the viceregal representative of the monarch of New Zealand, currently Queen Elizabeth II. As the Queen is shared equally with the 15 other Commonwealth realms, and resides in the United Kingdom, she, on the advice of her prime minister, appoints a governor-general to carry out most of her constitutional and ceremonial duties within the Realm of New Zealand. Once in office, the governor-general maintains direct contact with the Queen, wherever she may be at the time.

New Zealand Constitutional monarchy in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Multiracial voters

Multiracial citizens were formerly required to enroll on the General Electors's roll, or according to the race of their father. In the 1990s, Chinese-Fijian businessman and politician James Ah Koy challenged this rule in court. The law, and later the Constitution, were consequently amended to allow persons with multiple ethnic origins to register on any communal roll for which any of their ancestors, in either the male or female line, would have qualified. Many Fijian citizens of mixed Fijian and European origin, commonly known as Vasus, have since transferred from the General Electors' communal roll to the Fijian one.

This generated some controversy in the leadup to the parliamentary election scheduled for 2006. United Peoples Party leader Mick Beddoes expressed concern that electoral officials were encouraging members of minority communities to register on the Fijian communal roll, and were failing to provide them with the necessary forms to enroll as General Electors. "It is not unusual for members of the Vasu community to be registered on the Fijian roll," Beddoes said. "However encouraging minority voters to register as Fijians and not having a General Registration form for them to fill in when visiting their homes and only using a Fijian and Indian registration form, is unusual to say the least." A senior election officer said that the complaint was being taken very seriously.

Related Research Articles

House of Representatives of Fiji former lower house of Fiji; abolished in 2003

The House of Representatives was the lower chamber of Fiji's Parliament from 1970 to 2006. It was the more powerful of the two chambers; it alone had the power to initiate legislation. The House of Representatives also had much greater jurisdiction over financial bills; the Senate could not amend them, although it might veto them. Except in the case of amendments to the Constitution, over which a veto of the Senate was absolute, the House of Representatives might override a Senatorial veto by passing the same bill a second time, in the parliamentary session immediately following the one in which it was rejected by the Senate, after a minimum period of six months.

Elections in Fiji

Fiji has held 10 general elections for the House of Representatives since becoming independent of the United Kingdom in 1970; there had been numerous elections under colonial rule, but only one with universal suffrage. In this period, Fiji has had three constitutions, and the voting system has changed accordingly. Note that there are no general elections for the Senate: The 32 Senators are nominated, not elected.

Chapter 6: The Parliament. Chapter 6 of the Fiji Constitution is titled The Parliament. The five Parts, further subdivided into forty sections making up this chapter, set out the composition, functions, and powers of Fiji's bicameral legislature.

1987 Fijian general election

General elections were held in Fiji between 4 and 11 April 1987. It was historic in that it marked the first electoral transition of power in Fijian history. The Alliance Party (Fiji) of the longtime Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was defeated by a multiracial coalition, consisting of the Fiji Labour Party, the Indo-Fijian-dominated National Federation Party, and two smaller parties, the Western United Front and the Fiji Nationalist Party. In the House of Representatives, the coalition won a total of 28 seats to the Alliance's 24, and Dr Timoci Bavadra, the leader of the coalition, became Prime Minister.

1992 Fijian general election

General elections were held in Fiji between 23 and 30 May 1992. It was the first election held since two military coups in 1987 had severed Fiji's 113-year-old constitutional links with the British Monarchy, and later Fijian Monarchy, and ushered in a republic.

1994 Fijian general election

General elections were held in Fiji between 18 and 25 February 1994. This election, the second since Fiji had become a republic following two military coups in 1987, was brought about by splits within the ruling Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT) and by the withdrawal of the support of the Fiji Labour Party, which claimed that Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka had reneged on a deal to review Fiji's electoral system, which was heavily weighted in favour of ethnic Fijians, despite their being nearly equal in number to Indo-Fijians.

1999 Fijian general election

General elections were held in Fiji between 8 and 15 May 1999. They were the first election held under the revised Constitution of 1997, which instituted a new electoral system and resulted in Mahendra Chaudhry taking office as Fiji's first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.

"General Electors" is the term formerly used in Fiji to identify citizens of voting age who belonged, in most cases, to ethnic minorities. The 1997 Constitution defined General Electors as all Fiji citizens who were not registered as being of Fijian, Indian, or Rotuman descent. Also included were citizens who did qualify to be registered in the above categories, but who chose not to be. Persons of biracial or multiracial ancestry could opt to enroll either as General Electors, or as descendants of any of the other three groups to which they had an ancestral claim. General Electors were thus a diverse electorate, whose members included Europeans, Chinese, Banaban Islanders, and many smaller groups. They were allocated 3 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower and more influential house of the Fijian Parliament.

Colony of Fiji

The Colony of Fiji was a British Crown colony that existed from 1874 to 1970 in the territory of the present-day nation of Fiji. The United Kingdom declined its first opportunity to annex the Kingdom of Fiji in 1852. Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau had offered to cede the islands, subject to being allowed to retain his Tui Viti title, a condition unacceptable to both the British and to many of his fellow chiefs, who regarded him only as first among equals, if that. Mounting debts and threats from the United States Navy had led Cakobau to establish a constitutional monarchy with a government dominated by European settlers in 1871, following an agreement with the Australian Polynesia Company to pay his debts. The collapse of the new regime drove him to make another offer of cession in 1872, which the British accepted. On 10 October 1874, Britain began its rule of Fiji, which lasted until 10 October 1970.

1966 Fijian general election

General elections were held in Fiji between 26 September and 8 October 1966, the last before independence in 1970 and the first held under universal suffrage. The result was a victory for the Alliance Party, which won 23 of the 34 elected seats. Its leader Kamisese Mara became the country's first Chief Minister the following year.

Open constituencies type of constituency in the Fijian electoral system

Open constituencies represent one of several electoral models employed in the past in the Fijian electoral system. They derived their name from the fact that they were "open": unlike the communal constituencies, the 25 members of the House of Representatives who represented open constituencies were elected by universal suffrage and were open to members of any ethnic group.

2006 Fijian general election

The Constitution of Fiji requires general elections for the House of Representatives to be held at least once every five years. The last election before Fiji's 2014 election was held on 6–13 May 2006. Acting President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi issued a proclamation on 2 March, effective from 27 March, dissolving Parliament. The previous parliamentary term had been due to expire on 1 October 2006.

North Eastern (General Electors Communal Constituency, Fiji)

North Eastern General Communal is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 3 communal constituencies reserved for General Electors, an omnibus category including Caucasians, Chinese, and all others whose ethnicity was neither indigenous Fijian nor Indo-Fijian. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006..

Suva City (General Electors Communal Constituency, Fiji) General Electors communal constituency of Fiji

Suva City General Communal is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 3 communal constituencies reserved for General Electors, an omnibus category including Caucasians, Chinese, and all others whose ethnicity was neither indigenous Fijian nor Indo-Fijian. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006..

West Central (General Electors Communal Constituency, Fiji)

West Central General Communal is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 3 communal constituencies reserved for General Electors, an omnibus category including Caucasians, Chinese, and all others whose ethnicity was neither indigenous Fijian nor Indo-Fijian. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006..

Sir John Neil Falvey, K.B.E., Q.C. was a New Zealand-born lawyer, who served as Attorney General of Fiji from 1970 to 1977. Previously, he had served as legal adviser to the Fijian Affairs Board.