FIJI
Parliamentary Chamber: House of Representatives

ELECTIONS HELD IN 1999

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Chamber:
  House of Representatives


Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  8 May 1999
15 May 1999


Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in the House of Representatives under the new Constitution of July 1998 upon the normal expiry of the members' term. General elections had previously been held in February 1994.


Background and outcome of elections:

  The outgoing Prime Minister, Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka, came to power in a 1987 military coup d'Etat after deposing the first Indian-dominated government in Fiji's history. In 1997, the Constitution was amended to remove many of the racially discriminatory aspects of the voting system, thus ending the political dominance of the country's native Melanesian community over citizens of Indian extraction (who had been brought to Fiji at the turn of the century as indentured labour to work on sugar plantations).

On 13 October 1998, Mr. Rabuka announced that general elections would take place in April 1999. Two months later, the Election Commission pushed the date back to May. Parliament was dissolved on 21 March in view of the elections. Three days later, the Prime Minister - who had formed a multi-racial political alliance (the first since independence in 1970) earlier in the month between his ethnic Fijian Political Party (SVT), Mr. Jai Ram Reddy's ethnic Indian National Federation Party (NFP) and the United General Party (UGP) - began his campaign, calling for unity to strengthen the nation. In this connection, he stated: "The choices that face us are stark: we can either go back to failed and divisive politics of the past which pitted one community against another or we can embrace a new path and nurture a new culture of co-operation and conciliation". Apart from the theme of peaceful co-existence between the country's various communities, debate focused on unemployment and land policy. By the nomination deadline (9 April), a record number of 20 parties (many of which had only recently been formed) and over 300 candidates were registered to contest the 71 seats at stake.

The polling process - scheduled over a week - was monitored by independent observers, who deemed the vote fair although it had been plagued by a number of technical problems. Final results gave the most seats to the ethnic Indian Fiji Labour Party (FLP), led by Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry, who had campaigned in alliance with two indigenous Fijian parties; they captured a total of 52 seats, with Labour winning 37. The SVT, for its part, suffered heavy losses, retaining only eight seats. This outcome bore out the fact that ethnic Indians had generally abandoned the NFP of Mr Jai Ram Reddy, Mr. Rabuka's coalition partner.

In accordance with the Constitution, President of the Republic Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was to choose the Prime Minister from among those with a majority backing in Parliament. On 19 May, Mr. Chaudhry was sworn in to this post as head of a coalition government comprising the FLP, FAP and PANU; his Cabinet was announced two days later.

STATISTICS
Round no 1 (8 May 1999): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 437 195
Voters 230 000 (52.61%)

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Fiji Labour Party (FLP) 37
Fijian Association Party (FAP) 10
Fijian Political Party (SVT) 8
Party of National Unity (PANU) 4
Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) 3
Independents 5
Others 4

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 63
Women: 8
Percent of women: 11.27


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Copyright 1999 Inter-Parliamentary Union