| The 1998
constitution allows for a bicameral legislature.
In the 71 member Vale (House of Representatives), whose members
are popularly elected for 5 year terms, over half the seats are
allocated to specific ethnic communities (23 to Fijians, 19 to Indians),
the remainder are open, to be contested by anyone. The Seniti (Senate),
which also serves a 5 year term, has 34 members, 24 are elected
by the traditional Council of Chiefs, while the remainder are appointed.
The Council of Chiefs elects the President to serve a 5 year term.
Fiji has been Republic since 1987.
The Head of State has been President Ratu Josefa
Ilolio since 2000.
The President is appointed for a 5 year term by
the Great Council of Chiefs (Bosu Levu Vakaturaga), a traditional
body with roughly 70 members, consisting of every hereditary Fijian
chief (or ratu).
The Head of Government has been Prime Minister
Laisenia Qarase since 2000.
The 1987 general election brought to power a coalition
between the major ethnic Indian party, the National Federation
Party, led by Marendra Chaudhry, and the newly formed Labour
Party. The new Government had several Indian ministers,
which proved too much for many nationalist native Fijians (referred
to as Taukei). This was the trigger for an army coup d’état,
headed by Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka. Colonel Rabuka declared himself
head of an interim military Government and initiated a new constitution,
under which blocs of seats in a new assembly were allocated to specific
ethnic groups, thereby guaranteeing a Taukei majority. Under this
format, the 1992 elections brought to power a coalition subjugated
by the principal ethnic Fijian party. Rabuka assumed the premiership.
By the time the revised constitution came into effect in 1998, Fiji’s
poor economic performance had damaged the Rabuka
Government’s popularity. The Fijian Labour Party was now able
to secure an absolute majority in the Vela and an Indian Prime Minister,
Mahendra Chaudhry, took office. In May 2000, George Speight organised
a rebellion, holding Chaudhry and other ministers as hostages while
he issued a series of demands. The stand off lasted 2 months. After
originally conceding to most of the rebel demands (including the
dismissal of Chaudhry), the military, led by Commodore Frank Bainanarama,
took control at the beginning of July. A few weeks later, the military
moved against Speight and his followers, who were arrested.
A temporary Government under the veteran Taukei
politician, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, was installed with Laisenia Qarase
as Premier. Following the elections in August 2001, an alliance
Government was formed between the the Fiji United Party and the
smaller Conservative Alliance Party (Matanitu Vanua) and, despite
the fact that most votes were won by the Labour Party, Laisenia
Qarase continued as Prime Minister. The islands have since enjoyed
reasonable stability, although nothing has been done to address
the underlying causes of Fiji’s political problems. Qarase
closely defeated Chaudhry's Labout Party in the 2006 elections.