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Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

Ballot box brings government new legitimacy Having initially seized power in a coup, Frank Bainimarama has reinvented himself as civilian politician – a move that saw him legitimately returned to power in last year’s general election. But can he carry the nation with him as he re-establishes Fiji as a democracy in the eyes of the world? Terry Less Fiji’s first 45 years as an independent nation have included a good deal of political drama. There have been four coups, the last as recently as 2006, which did not see democracy restored until the 2014 general election. And the Pacific nation’s chequered history even includes the Prime Minister being held hostage by rebels for two months in 2000. That’s on top of the ever-present ethnic tensions between indigenous Fijians and the Indo- Fijians, who are descended from indentured workers brought over from India to work on sugar cane farms. Fiji became independent in 1970, having been a British protectorate since 1874. The country’s first constitution offered universal suffrage, with guarantees for Fijian land rights, but the detail of the constitution has been the subject of much debate in the intervening years, which has seen it torn up and re-written several times. Shortly before Fiji’s first coup in 1987, elections had brought victory for a coalition consisting of the National Federation Party (NFP) – the largest Indo-Fijian party – and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP), supported by both ethnic Fijian and Indo-Fijian trade unions. A month later the government was overthrown in a coup led by Lieutenant- Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, who called for the ethnic Fijian dominance of all future governments. The coup was followed by © Matthias Süßen CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons In Focus Fiji www.global global four th quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 55


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
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