Electoral system of Fiji

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Historical overview

Fiji's electoral system is the result of complex negotiations, compromises, and experiments conducted over the years leading up to and following independence from British colonial rule in 1970. A number of devices have been tried at various times to accommodate the reality that the primary faultline in Fijian politics is not ideological, but ethnic. The competing political interests of the indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians defined the political landscape for a generation. There are also small communities of Europeans, Chinese, and other minorities.

Fiji Country in Oceania

Fiji, officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,100 nautical miles northeast of New Zealand's North Island. Its closest neighbours are Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, New Zealand's Kermadec Islands to the southeast, Tonga to the east, the Samoas and France's Wallis and Futuna to the northeast, and Tuvalu to the north. Fiji consists of an archipelago of more than 330 islands—of which 110 are permanently inhabited—and more than 500 islets, amounting to a total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres (7,100 sq mi). The most outlying island is Ono-i-Lau. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the total population of 898,760. The capital, Suva, on Viti Levu, serves as the country's principal cruise-ship port. About three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu's coasts, either in Suva or in smaller urban centres such as Nadi—where tourism is the major local industry—or Lautoka, where the sugar-cane industry is paramount. Due to its terrain, the interior of Viti Levu is sparsely inhabited.

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.

Politics of Fiji

Politics of Fiji take place within the framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic. Fiji has a multiparty system with the Prime Minister of Fiji as head of government. The executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Fiji. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Contents

In colonial times, the British authorities established a legislative council with mostly advisory powers, which were gradually extended. European males were enfranchised in 1904 an allocated 7 elective seats in the Legislative Council. Fijians were represented by 2 chiefs chosen by the colonial Governor from a list of 6 nominees submitted by the Great Council of Chiefs. There was initially no representation for Indian immigrants or their descendants, but in 1917 they were granted one seat, filled by a nominee of the Governor.

Legislative Council of Fiji

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

Governor of Fiji Wikimedia list article

Fiji was a British Crown Colony from 1874 to 1970, and an independent Dominion in the Commonwealth from 1970 to 1987. During this period, the Head of State was the British Monarch, but in practice his or her functions were normally exercised locally by the Governor prior to independence, and by the Governor-General prior to the proclamation of a republic on 7 October 1987.

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.

This seat was made elective in 1929, when wealthy Indian males were enfranchised. By 1954, Europeans, Indo-Fijians, and indigenous Fijians were allocated an equal number of seats on the Legislative Council. The mode of election remained different: universal male suffrage for Europeans and an enfranchised wealthy elite for Indians; indigenous Fijians continued to be represented by nominees of the Great Council of Chiefs, and did not vote directly for their own representatives until the general election of 1966, the last election to be held before independence.

Universal suffrage Political concept

The concept of universal franchise, also known as general suffrage or common suffrage, consists of the right to vote of all adult citizens, regardless of wealth, income, gender, social status, 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.

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.

From the early 1960s onwards, the Indo-Fijian dominated National Federation Party began campaigning for universal franchise on a common voters' roll. Leaders of the indigenous Fijian community objected to this proposal, fearful that it would grant effective political control to Indo-Fijians, who then comprised a majority of the country's population. A number of compromises were agreed to in the years that followed.

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. However, in the 2018 General elections the party recorded a considerable change in its support base as a consequent of the inclusion of more indegenous Fijian candidates.

National voting system

Today the voting system for the Fijian House of Representatives is used to elect 50 [1] members under a single national constituency. Fiji used the first past the post system for most of its history, but the new constitution in 1997–1998 agreed to replace it with the alternative vote (AV) system, allowing votes to be transferred from a low-polling candidate to other candidates, according to an order prescribed by the candidate, which may be customised by the elector.

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.

The 1997 Constitution of Fiji was the supreme law of Fiji from its adoption in 1997 until 2009 when President Josefa Iloilo purported to abrogate it. It was also suspended for a period following the 2000 coup d'état led by George Speight.

Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a type of ranked preferential voting method used in single-seat elections with more than two candidates. Instead of indicating support for only one candidate, voters in IRV elections can rank the candidates in order of preference. Ballots are initially counted for each voter's top choice. If a candidate has more than half of the vote based on first-choices, that candidate wins. If not, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The voters who selected the defeated candidate as a first choice then have their votes added to the totals of their next choice. This process continues until a candidate has more than half of the votes. When the field is reduced to two, it has become an "instant runoff" that allows a comparison of the top two candidates head-to-head. Compared to plurality voting, IRV can reduce the impact of vote-splitting when multiple candidates earn support from like-minded voters.

AV allows voters to rank candidates in the order of their preference, with votes for low-polling candidates transferred to higher-polling candidates. Candidates who receive a minimum of 50 percent of the total vote in their respective constituencies are declared elected. If no candidate receives 50 percent, votes cast for low-polling candidates are transferred to higher-polling candidates, beginning by "eliminating" the lowest-polling candidate and continuing until one candidate has 50 percent or more of the vote.

The variant of AV chosen was taken from the Australian electoral system used for the Australian Senate where voters can opt to vote "above the line", accepting a party's prespecified preference order (as also used for the New York City Council). This system allows parties to pre-specify electoral alliances and is akin to the use of apparentment, linked party lists, in party-list proportional representation systems. Voters who disagree with the way their preferred candidate has arranged to transfer his or her votes if eliminated may opt to vote "below the line" of the ballot paper instead. Here, electors may rank all candidates in the order of their preference.

New York City Council city council; lawmaking body of the City of New York, USA

The New York City Council is the lawmaking body of the City of New York. It has 51 members from 51 council districts throughout the five boroughs.

Apparentment is the name given to the system, sometimes provided for in elections conducted according to the party-list proportional representation system, which allows parties to specify electoral alliances. The system has been used in Switzerland since 1919 and is now used in Israel.

Party-list proportional representation family of voting systems

Party-list proportional representation systems are a family of voting systems emphasizing proportional representation (PR) in elections in which multiple candidates are elected through allocations to an electoral list. They can also be used as part of mixed additional member systems.

Criticisms

Since its implementation, the voting system has proved controversial, with some politicians claiming that it allows political parties to "fix" election results by making electoral pacts for the transfer of votes. Some have alleged, for example, that many indigenous Fijians cast votes for the Christian Democratic Alliance (VLV) or the Party of National Unity (PANU) in the 1999 election, unaware that those parties had signed agreements with the Indo-Fijian-dominated Fiji Labour Party to transfer votes from low-polling VLV and PANU candidates to the FLP, thereby allowing the FLP to win more seats.

Conversely, many Indo-Fijian supporters of the National Federation Party (NFP) in the 2001 poll may not have been aware that votes for NFP candidates, all of whom lost, were to be transferred to the indigenous-dominated Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL). Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase of the SDL has admitted that his party won a number of seats on NFP "preferences," as transferred votes are known.

Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi expressed his own misgivings about the voting system on 3 November 2005. He said it made the work of political parties much easier and denied freedom of choice to voters, as a vote for a political party was ultimately a vote for any other party to which that party had decided to transfer its preferences. "In hindsight, it would perhaps have been preferable to leave the voter to make up his own mind," Madraiwiwi said.

He reiterated these reservations on 9 February 2006, and proposed proportional representation as an alternative. His call went unheeded by both the Grand Coalition Initiative Group (a coalition of indigenous Fijian parties) and by the predominantly Indo-Fijian Fiji Labour Party, both of which said they were satisfied with the present system.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase added his own voice to the dissent on 21 December 2005, saying that the system might be too complicated for the average voter to understand. A high percentage of the votes cast in 1999 and 2001 had been declared invalid, he said, and he feared that the same would be true in 2006. He called for consultations on a possible return to first past the post.

Constituencies

Members of the Fijian House of Representatives are elected from single-member constituencies. Several kinds of constituencies have existed at various times, and at present there are two: communal and open constituencies.

Communal constituencies

Communal constituencies have been the most durable feature of the Fijian electoral system. Before 1966, all elective seats in the Legislative Council were allocated by ethnicity and elected by voters enrolled as members of specific population groups. It avoided direct competition for power along racial lines.

Critics pointed out that apportionment was not proportional: even after 1966, ethnic Fijians and Indo-Fijians, who outnumbered them, were both allocated 9 elective seats, and European and other minorities, who comprised less than ten percent of the population, were allocated 7. Minority representation was reduced from 1972 onwards (3 out of 27 communal constituencies); indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians continued to be represented equally (12 seats each).

The 1990 Constitution of Fiji abolished all non-communal constituencies. The general election of 1992, and a subsequent election in 1995, saw all members of the House of Representatives elected on a strict communal basis.

A constitutional revision in 1997–1998 reduced communal representation to 46 seats out of 71. 23 seats are currently allocated to ethnic Fijians, 19 to Indo-Fijians, 1 to Rotuman Islanders, and 3 to minority groups.

National constituencies

As a compromise between competing demands for universal suffrage (advocated by most Indo-Fijian leaders) and a strict communal franchise (supported by most indigenous Fijian chiefs), 9 "cross-voting" constituencies, later renamed national constituencies, were established for the first time for the 1966 election. The 9 seats were allocated ethnically (with ethnic Fijians, Indo-Fijians, and minorities allocated 3 seats each), but elected by universal adult suffrage. This compromise required candidates to seek support from outside of their own ethnic group, without having to deal with competition from candidates of other races.

An agreement in 1970 led to the expansion of the number of national constituencies to 25 from 1972 onwards. This was almost half of the 52-member House of Representatives. Indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians were allocated 10 national seats each, with minorities taking the remaining 5.

Following two military coups in 1987, the national constituencies were abolished under pressure from Fijian ethno-nationalists, who opposed allowing non-indigenous electors to vote for indigenous Fijian representatives.

Open constituencies

A constitutional revision in 1997–1998 allowed direct electoral competition between candidates of different ethnic groups for the first time. 25 Open constituencies were established, with candidates of all races competing for votes cast on a common voters' roll. In the parliamentary election of 1999, the open constituencies proved to be much more competitive than the communal constituencies, in which ethnic loyalty to particular political parties generally guaranteed predictable results. This trend was even more apparent in the election of 2001.

Chiefly nominees

Before 1966, all Fijian representatives in the Legislative Council were nominated by the Great Council of Chiefs. The chiefs continued to nominate two members to the Legislative Council after 1966, but chiefly representation was abolished in the first post-independence election of 1972. They were compensated, however, with the creation of a Senate, in which 8 out of 22 Senators were nominated by the chiefs. This figure was increased to 24 out of 34 in 1992, but reduced to 14 out of 32 in 1999.

Official members

From 1904 to 1966, a majority in the Legislative Council were appointed by the colonial Governor. Seats held by these nominees, known as official members, were abolished that year[ specify ].

Proposal for "one man, one vote"

Current "interim leader" Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who overthrew the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in a military coup in December 2006, has blamed Fiji's "communal voting" system for ethnic tensions and a lack of a strong feeling of shared national identity and citizenship. Bainimarama has stated that he would favour abolishing the communal voting system, in favour of a "one man, one vote" "common roll" system with no ethnic distinctions between voters. [2]

Originally opposed to the idea, Qarase later voiced tentative support. Qarase said he supported the idea in principle, but added: "[W]e are a very young democracy and I think if we move now to one man, one vote system it will be far too fast and far too early." [3] Instead, Qarase suggested a new system of proportional representation, in which each ethnic community would be represented in Parliament in proportion to its numbers within the population. [4] This would confer a majority in Parliament to indigenous Fijians.

In July 2009, Bainimarama announced that a new Constitution would be introduced by his government by 2013. It would amend the electoral system, abolishing communal voting. [5] A new constitution was promulgated in September 2013, abolishing both Communal and Open constituencies, and instituting a form of proportional representation, with the whole nation voting as a single constituency for a 50-member unicameral Parliament, which replaced the previous bicameral Parliament.

See also

Related Research Articles

Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua political party in Fiji

The United Fiji Party was a political party in Fiji. It was founded in 2001 by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase as a power base; it absorbed most of the Christian Democratic Alliance and other conservative groups, and its endorsement by the Great Council of Chiefs (Bose Levu Vakaturaga) caused it to be widely seen as the successor to the Alliance Party, the former ruling party that had dominated Fijian politics from the 1960s to the 1980s. It draws its support mainly from indigenous Fijiians.

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.

Communal constituencies type of constituency in the Fijian electoral system

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 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.

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.

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.

Bua Macuata West (Open Constituency, Fiji) Open Constituency in Fiji

Bua Macuata West Open is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 25 open constituencies that were elected by universal suffrage. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006. It was located in the western part of the northern island of Vanua Levu.

Cunningham (Open Constituency, Fiji) electoral division of Fiji

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Labasa (Open Constituency, Fiji)

Labasa Open is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 25 open constituencies that were elected by universal suffrage. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006. The electorate covered the largest Town on the northern island of Vanua Levu.

Laucala (Open Constituency, Fiji)

Laucala Open is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 25 open constituencies that were elected by universal suffrage. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006. It was centred on a suburb of Suva.

Ra (Open Constituency, Fiji)

Ra Open is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 25 open constituencies that were elected by universal suffrage. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006. It is located in the northern part of the main island of Vanua Levu.

Samabula Tamavua (Open Constituency, Fiji) Former constituency in Fiji

Samabula Tamavua Open is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 25 open constituencies that were elected by universal suffrage. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006. It was located in the Greater Suva metropolitan area.

Serua Navosa (Open Constituency, Fiji) former electoral division of Fiji

Serua Navosa Open is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 25 open constituencies that were elected by universal suffrage. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006. It was located in central and southern areas of the main island of Viti Levu

Ra (Fijian Communal Constituency, Fiji)

Ra Fijian Provincial Communal is an electoral division of Fiji, one of 23 communal constituencies reserved for indigenous Fijians. (Of the remaining 48 seats, 23 are reserved fis a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 23 communal constituencies reserved for indigenous Fijians. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006.. The electorate was coextensive with Ra Province.

Ba East (Fijian Communal Constituency, Fiji)

Ba East Fijian Provincial Communal is a former electoral division of Fiji, one of 23 communal constituencies reserved for indigenous Fijians. Established by the 1997 Constitution, it came into being in 1999 and was used for the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2001, and 2006.. The electorate covered the eastern areas of Ba Province.

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..

2014 Fijian general election

General elections were held in Fiji on 17 September 2014, to select the 50 members of the Fijian parliament.

2018 Fijian general election

General elections were held in Fiji on 14 November 2018. The result was a victory for the ruling FijiFirst party of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, which received just over 50% of the vote and 27 of the 51 seats in Parliament, a loss of five seats. The main opposition party, Social Democratic Liberal Party, gained six seats, whilst the National Federation Party retained its three seats.

References

  1. "Our Story - History of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji".
  2. "Equality within ‘common roll’ for Fiji", Radio Fiji, 1 December 2007
  3. "Timing out for change in Fiji’s voting system", Radio Fiji, 14 January 2008
  4. "Represent all in Fiji’s voting system", Radio Fiji, 14 January 2008
  5. "PM Bainimarama – A Strategic Framework for Change" Archived 21 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine , Fiji government website, 1 July 2009