Constitution of Fiji

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Fiji

Independence: 10 October 1970

Fiji’s constitution has always reflected the multiracial nature of its society. It provides for a parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament comprising an elected House of Representatives and appointed Senate. Some seats in the House of Representatives are reserved for ethnic Fijians, some for Indo-Fijians and some for other ethnic groups. Following the 1987 coups, Fiji became a republic, with a president appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs (Bose Levu Vakaturaga, a body comprising the heads of the ethnic Fijian clans), for a five-year term as head of state. The president appoints as prime minister the member of the House of Representatives who commands the support of the majority, normally the leader of the largest party or coalition. The prime minister then forms a government which has executive authority. Constitutional amendments require a 75% majority in both houses.

Under the 1997 constitution, the number of seats in the House of Representatives was increased to 71, 25 of which were opened to all ethnic groups (elected by universal suffrage), while the remainder were to be elected by separate communal electoral rolls in the following proportions: ethnic Fijians 23; Indo-Fijians 19; other ethnic groups three; and Rotuman Islanders one. The Senate has 32 members, 14 appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs, nine by the prime minister, eight by the leader of the opposition and one by the Council of Rotuma. The prime ministership, but not the presidency, was opened to all Fijians. In addition, the first-past-the-post electoral system was replaced by an alternative preference system and voting became mandatory. Parties taking more than 10% of the votes in a general election have the right to a number of cabinet posts in proportion to the numbers of votes received.

A new constitution was promulgated on 6 September 2013. It includes a bill of rights and provides for a single-chamber legislature, Parliament, with 50 members directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a term of no more than four years from its first session. All Fijian citizens from the age of 18 are entitled to vote in a single national constituency and under a system of proportional representation. Parliament elects a non-executive President from a field of two candidates, one nominated by the Prime Minister and one by the Leader of the Opposition. The presidential term is three years and a President can serve no more than two terms. After an election, the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament becomes Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is head of government.