The NCBBF has recommended that Fiji adopt a Proportional Representation arrangement of voting using an open party list as part of its electoral reforms.
The Fiji Labour Party is not happy with this recommendation as we believe it is unsuitable for Fiji’s current conditions – it will foster further political instability with the creation of small groupings in parliament particularly if these are extremist elements.
Furthermore, the system will be cumbersome and confusing to our voters who are not as sophisticated as voters in advanced Western societies. It will simply magnify our problem of high invalid votes.
FLP is currently carrying out constituency meetings on the issue prior to calling a National Council meeting which will will take a final decision on FLP’s stand re the electoral system to be adopted.
Meanwhile, the key recommendations of the NCBBF regarding electoral reforms are as follows:
- complete abolishment of the communal representation system as provided for under the Constitution and the Electoral Act 1998 and the use of a common roll for all future elections
- the electoral and voting system as provided for under the Constitution and the Electoral Act 1998 be reformed to enable the adoption of a Proportional Representation System
- that the open party list be advised as the preferred electoral system in public consultations on electoral reform. Other systems that may be included for these consultations are the closed list and MMP systems
- that specific anti-discrimination measures be incorporated into Fiji’s electoral laws to ensure no person is discriminated against by political parties on the grounds of race, gender or circumstance
- that a relatively small number of large constituencies but no more than five, be adopted to maximise the proportional benefits of a PR electoral system
- that the mandatory power sharing arrangement as provided under sub-sections 99(5)- (9) of the Constitution be removed and due consideration shall be given to providing for the formation of a truly representative Cabinet
- the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age; and
- the abolition of compulsory voting
Other reforms recommended by the NCBBF relate to the:
- term of Parliament
- size of the House of Representatives and Cabinet
- future status of the Senate
- eligibility to contest a general election
- eligibility to vote; and
- future amendments to the Constitution
The NCBBF feels that a mandate from a general election should not give a government or Parliament the authority to amend Fiji’s Constitution. As the supreme law of Fiji, the Constitution reflects the collective will of the people of Fiji to be a sovereign democratic nation. It also protects their individual and group rights and provides for their system of government. The NCBBF therefore, proposes that provision should be made for referendums to be held in respect of any proposed amendments to the Constitution, in order to give the people of Fiji a greater say in the future of their Constitution.
The NCBBF recommends further reviews to be commissioned to examine the:
- the appointment, composition and functions of the Senate, which should include consideration of a unicameral legislature for Fiji
- appropriate size of the House of Representatives
- use of any savings made as a result of reforms, especially the down-sizing of Parliament, for the benefit of Members of Parliament and/or operations of Parliament; and
- appropriateness of current electoral laws to ensure the conduct of a free and fair general election particularly in relation to the reconciliation of ballot papers printed and used.
The NCBBF further recommends that
- the term of parliament remain five years
- the exceptions to the two-year rule for the right to vote be extended to cover all citizens who are temporarily overseas for employment purposes
- an additional limitation be provided for the nomination of candidates to contest a general elections to prohibit persons who have been convicted of an offence the penalty for which is a term of imprisonment of one year or more in the six years leading up to a general elections; and
- referenda be carried out before any substantial amendment to the Constitution can be made in the future
Finally, the NCBBF recommends that the foregoing proposed electoral reforms be implemented prior to the next general election, and further, that the adoption of the necessary reforms be expedited in order for the general election to be held as soon as practicable.