Electoral systems in divided societies

Electoral systems in divided societies: The Fiji constitution

Brij V Lal
Peter Larmour
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Electoral systems in divided societies
    Book Description:

    Elections can increase tension in ethnically divided societies, like Fiji. The way constituencies are drawn and votes counted can also affect the result. First-past-the post can deliver lopsided results, while proportional representation may give excessive influence to small, fringe parties. Fiji's Constitution Review Commission believed a system of alternative voting in ethnically mixed constituencies would encourage politicians, and parties, to take into account the interests of other ethnic groups. This book assesses their recommendations, looks at alternatives, and considers how they might work in Fiji.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-51-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Map: the Republic of the Fiji Islands
    (pp. viii-viii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    Peter Larmour

    In 1987, Fiji had its first change of government since the country became independent in 1970. In a general election, a coalition of the National Federation Party (NFP) and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) won four more seats than the ruling Alliance Party. Dr Timoci Bavadra replaced Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara as Prime Minister. Both were indigenous Fijians, but most of the Coalition’s electoral support was non-indigenous. A month later the new government was deposed by a military coup. A second coup, later in the year, forestalled implementation of a political compromise between party leaders. The country was declared to...

  7. 1 Encouraging electoral accommodation in divided societies
    (pp. 21-38)
    Donald L. Horowitz

    The constitution recommended by the Fiji Constitution Review Commission is the result of a careful process of investigation and deliberation that produced an extraordinarily rich and well-reasoned report. One important aspect of the report that might otherwise go unnoticed requires mention at the outset. The Commission took its mission to embrace the need for a cross-national examination of constitutional possibilities for countries situated similarly to Fiji. The report includes serious consideration of the experience of other states and of international standards applicable to the matters within its terms of reference. In this respect, the report does not exactly break new...

  8. 2 Fiji Constitution Review Commission recommendations for a new electoral system for Fiji
    (pp. 39-72)

    An electoral system is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Nor is there a perfect electoral system, neutral in its content and implications, tailor-made to suit every occasion and every need. Very often, a country’s electoral system is the result of historical accident or, in the case of the former colonies of the European powers, a legacy inherited at the time of independence. Although they may be inappropriate or unsuited, indeed even harmful to the larger interests of the country, politicians are often reluctant to discard them in favour of other more appropriate and relevant alternatives...

  9. 3 Constitutional engineering and the alternative vote in Fiji: an assessment
    (pp. 73-96)
    Ben Reilly

    The single most important institutional issue for encouraging the development of peaceful multi-ethnic politics in Fiji is the design of the new electoral system. Electoral systems have long been recognised as one of the most important institutional mechanisms for shaping the nature of political competition—first because they are, to quote one electoral authority, ‘the most specific manipulable instrument of politics’ (Sartori 1968:273)—that is, they can be purposively designed to achieve particular outcomes—and second, because they structure the arena of political competition, offering incentives to behave in certain ways, and rewarding those who respond to these incentives with...

  10. 4 Fiji’s proposed new voting system: a critique with counter-proposals
    (pp. 97-134)
    D.G. Arms

    While the Fiji Constitution Review Commission (henceforth the CRC) has made many excellent recommendations, its proposals for a new electoral system are controversial. If I stress the negative aspects of the CRC’s proposals, it is because they tend to vitiate many of the good points made. This chapter will consider in particular

    the problem in principle with the CRC’s position

    the need for a transparently fair electoral system

    difficulties with the latter part of Chapter 9 of the CRC’s Report, which deals with Parliament

    difficulties with the early part of Chapter 10 of the CRC’s Report, which deals with elections...

  11. 5 Party cooperation and the electoral system in Mauritius
    (pp. 135-146)
    Raj Mathur

    The tiny Republic of Mauritius, of an area of 1,865 sq km and a population of 1.1 million, is situated in the Indian Ocean, 850 km east of Madagascar. It was first successfully colonised by the French (1715–1810) then by the British (1810–1968). On 12 March 1968 Mauritius became a sovereign democratic state but chose to keep the British Queen as the Head of State, represented in Mauritius by a Governor-General. Exactly 24 years after independence from Britain (on 12 March 1992), Mauritius became a republic, thus breaking one of the last umbilical links with Britain.

    The Republic...

  12. 6 The recommendations on the electoral system: the contribution of the Fiji Constitution Review
    (pp. 147-159)
    Yash Ghai

    In order to assess the electoral proposals of the Fiji Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), it is necessary to place them in the overall scheme of constitutional reform recommended by the Commission. The Commission states that its report is like a ‘seamless document’, whose component parts are inextricably linked and that ‘its full import will be grasped only if it is read in its totality’ (Fiji CRC 1996:3). This approach to the recommendations of the CRC is particularly important in view of the ‘social engineering’ orientation of its report, whereby constitutional rules are deliberately designed to achieve particular results (as opposed...