Fiji Government and Politics
State and politics
Political life in Fiji is turbulent. Following a coup d’état led by Commander-in-Chief Voreqe (“Frank”) Bainimarama in December 2006 (the fourth in order since independence in 1970), Fiji became a military dictatorship. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of FJ and its meanings of Fiji. The constitution was repealed in 2009. According to the repealed constitution, the president was to be appointed by a chief council for a term of five years, but Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, president since 2009, was appointed by the country’s highest judge on the recommendation of the government, led by Bainimarama. The term of office of the President was changed to three years and the Vice President’s office was removed. The parliamentary elections that were promised were postponed gradually, but were finally held in September 2014. In this, Bainimarama’s party won Fiji First, which received 59 percent of the vote against 28 percent for the second largest party, the Social Democratic Liberal Party.
According to AllCityCodes.com, anew constitution was adopted in September 2013. This meant, among other things, that the two-chamber parliament was replaced by a single-chamber parliament with 50 members elected in general elections every four years. The President, who is head of state with predominantly ceremonial duties, is elected by Parliament for three years and can be re-elected once. The government is led by the prime minister. The military continues to play a central role and, according to the constitution, is responsible not only for the security and defense of the country, but also for the “well-being” of Fiji and all Fijians.
According to the 1970 constitution, Fiji was a monarchy within the Commonwealth; the British Queen was represented by a Governor General. The country had a democratic constitution, which included complicated rules to cater to the interests of different ethnic groups. In 1987 Sitiveni Rabuka conducted two military coups. After the second, the archipelago was proclaimed a republic and thus left the Commonwealth. Fiji returned as a member in 1997, but was suspended from the coup in 2006 and until elections were held in September 2014.
Fiji’s domestic politics has since been marked by contradictions between ethnic Fijians (Melanesians) and Indians. When a left-wing coalition consisting of the Fiji Labor Party (FLP) and the National Federation Party (NFP), representing the Indian population group, in 1987 defeated the Alliance Party, which has ruled the country since 1970, followed two military coups. The constitution that came into force in 1990 guaranteed the Fijians majority in parliament. As a result, the relationship between Fiji and India deteriorated, and many Indians emigrated.
The constitution adopted in 1997 gave the Indian people increased political rights but was still ethnically based. The 1999 election marked a victory for FLP, and Mahendra Chaudhry took office as Fiji’s first Prime Minister of Indian origin. In May 2000, however, a new coup was carried out by businessman George Speight. Chaudhry and his government were captured, and the country was in a deep political crisis. The coup makers demanded that Fiji’s political power be reserved for Fijians of Melanese origin. The military, with Bainimarama at the forefront, forced the president, Ratu Kamisese Mara, to step down and made sure that the former government was released. Ratu Josefa Iloilo was appointed president and a transitional government led by Laisenia Qarase was appointed. In 2001, new parliamentary elections were held, which resulted in Qarase’s newly formed Fiji Nationalist Party (SDL) receiving the most seats in parliament despite the Indian-dominated FLP receiving the most votes. In the 2006 elections, SDL was again victorious, but later that year Bainimarama carried out his military coup.
The country’s highest court is the Court of Appeal, which is reviewing appeals against the decisions of the High Court. Material law is based mainly on English law, with some elements of local customary law.
The death penalty was abolished in 1979 for crimes committed during peacetime, but can still be punished under war or war-like conditions. The last execution took place in 1964.
Since 1970, Fiji has experienced four military coups (see History) and respect for human rights has diminished for every change of government.
Fiji’s modern history is characterized by a lack of democracy and contradictions between ethnic Fijians and Fijians of Indian origin. Conflicts over land and lease are a major problem and many ethnic Indians have chosen to leave Fiji. From having been in the majority during the mid-20th century, the Indian population through national escape has been greatly decimated and today accounts for less than 40 percent.
The country’s constitution was repealed in 2009, an emergency permit was introduced and the country has since been ruled as a military dictatorship. The regime under President Voreqe Bainimarama severely limits the people’s right to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Arbitrary arrests, harassment and torture of regime critics and human rights defenders occur to a large extent. Corruption is widespread and impunity applies to the police and military.
Despite severe restrictions on press freedom and the imminent risk of journalists being imprisoned in connection with their professional activities, Reporters Without Borders’ index of freedom of press still shows an ever-improving situation in the country. In 2015, the country placed 93 out of 179 countries in comparison to 149 in 2010.
Violence and discrimination against women are major problems in the country. Harassment and sexual abuse are extensive at the same time as the reporting rate is low. Also, abuse of children such as sexual commercialization has increased despite prohibitions in the country’s legislation.
The education system is well developed and the right to schooling is prioritized, but at the same time figures show a decline in school attendance during the 00s.
Heads of State
|1987-93||Ratu Penaia Ganilau|
|1993-2000||Ratu Kamisese Mara|
|2000||Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama|
|2000-09||Ratu Josefa Iloilo|
|2009-15||Ratu Epeli Nailatikau|
* From independence in 1970 to the proclamation of the republic in 1987, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was head of state.