FIJI ISLANDS
Parliamentary Chamber: House of Representatives

ELECTIONS HELD IN 2001

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Chamber:
  House of Representatives


Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  25 August 2001
2 September 2001


Purpose of elections:

  For the first time since Parliament was dissolved by decree on 30 May 2000, after the Interim Military Government abrogated the 1997 Constitution, elections were held for all seats in the House of Representatives. General elections had previously been held in May 1999.


Background and outcome of elections:

  The elections were held to choose the new 71 members of the House of Representatives fifteen months after armed nationalists, led by Mr. George Speight, overthrew the government of the first ethnic Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry. Mr. Speight and his gunmen stormed Parliament on 19 May 2000, taking the Prime Minster and most of his multi-racial cabinet hostage for 56 days. During the crisis, the military declared martial law and appointed Mr. Laisenia Qarase as caretaker Prime Minister.

Fiji has been rocked by three racially inspired coups and a military mutiny since 1987, fuelled by indigenous Fijian fears that the country's minority ethnic Indians, who dominate the economy, would also dominate politically.

The Fiji High Court ruled in July 2001 that the elections could proceed, upholding the decision of the emergency government to dismiss the elected government of Mr. Chaudhry and dissolve Parliament.

During the electoral campaign, leaders of the two major parties, the Fijian United Party (SDL) and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) accused each other of being racists, but agreed that if any party won the minimum number of seats (8), the winner would invite it to join the Cabinet, as stipulated under the Constitution.

Some 18 parties participated in the elections, fielding 351 candidates for the 71 constituencies.

The voting was spread over an eight-day period, from 25 August to 1 September 2001 (excluding the Sunday).

International observers from the United Nations, the British Commonwealth and the European Union declared that the elections were free and fair. Nevertheless, the dismissed Prime Minister and leader of the Fiji Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, alleged widespread vote-rigging.

Mr Qarase's nationalist SDL won 31 of the 71 seats at stake, while Mr. Chaudhry's FLP won 27.

The nationalist Conservative Alliance/Matanitu Vanua (MV) of Mr. Speight emerged as holding the balance of power, as it won 7 seats.

A coalition Government was sworn in on 12 September 2001 with Mr Qarase as Prime Minister. He included in his Cabinet members of the Conservative Alliance but excluded the ethnic Indian-dominated FLP. The Prime Minister publicly defended this decision by alleging that including the FLP in the Cabinet would "not contribute to a stable and workable government so essential to the promotion of national unity in Fiji".

On 1 October 2001, Parliament was formally opened. Seventy new Members of Parliament were sworn in and elected Mr. Epeli Nailatikau as the new Speaker. The 71st MP, Mr. George Speight, who was in prison awaiting trial for treason, was refused bail to attend the opening session. Subsequently he was stripped of his membership because he had not been able to attend Parliament for a long period of time as required by the law.

STATISTICS
Round no 1 (25 August 2001): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 468 630

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Fijian United Party (SDL) 31
Fiji Labour Party (FLP) 27
Conservative Alliance (MV) 7
New Labour Unity Party (NLUP) 2
United General Party (UGP) 1
National Federation Party (NFP) 1
Independents 2

Comments:
  One seat is currently vacant

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 66
Women: 4
Percent of women: 5.71


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Copyright 2001 Inter-Parliamentary Union