Assessing Fiji's recent general election: Michael Potts comments on the November 2018 vote that he observed as part of a multinational observer group.

AuthorPotts, Michael

On 13 November Fijians went to the polls to elect a new House of Representatives. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama's ruling Fiji First party won 27 of the 51 seats, while SODELPA (led by former a former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka), gained 21 seats. In all six parties took part in the contest. A multinational observer group, comprising diplomats or officials from ten nations, observed the electoral process. The elections passed without incident and represented a well-run and a credible expression of the electorate's preferences. The outcome suggests that the new system, introduced in 2013, has established itself as robust and transparent.


Fiji's second election under its current (2013) Constitution took place on 13 November 2018. The polling was for the 51 seats in the House of Representatives, the country's parliament. Six parties contested the poll, which was won by Fiji First, the ruling party, with a reduced majority.

For many reasons, this was an important poll. Given the number of coups since the mid-1980s, Fiji had acquired the reputation of being coup-prone and so the Bainimarama government (itself the successor to a military government) was anxious to demonstrate that a regular democratic process had become entrenched.

Under the Fijian electoral system, the whole country is a single electorate, using an open list system of proportional representation. There is a single electoral roll (compared to the racially-based separate rolls of earlier constitutions) and all over the age of 18 are entided to register to vote. All registered voters receive a voter card as proof of their identity and eligibility to vote. They are also assigned to a specific polling venue. Voting is not compulsory. All candidates are assigned a number, drawn by lot, and voters are given a Lotto-like sheet and requited to indicate a preference for one candidate, using that number. It is a rather impersonal system, although all voters are given a voter instruction booklet which lists all the candidates and their numbers as they enter the polling station. Using the d'Hondt formula, these choices are totted up on a party basis and then the available seats are allocated, except that parties polling below a 5 per cent threshold are excluded.

The first elections under the new system were held in 2014 and the outgoing military government allowed interested foreign governments to send observers on the basis that they would operate as one team under the...

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