The Failure of Democratic Politics in Fiji

By Stephanie Lawson | Go to book overview

Introduction

This book is based on the premiss that constitutional opposition is one of the most important distinguishing characteristics of modern democratic politics and that the failure of democratic politics in Fiji can be attributed, in large part, to the failure of the notions associated with constitutional opposition to gain sufficient standing or respect amongst some significant elements within Fiji's polity.

The first task, then, is to set out precisely why constitutional opposition is taken to be so important to the workings of democratic politics. Some of the arguments associated with this have been dealt with in the body of scholarly literature on political opposition, political parties, party systems, and democratic theory generally. Chapter 1 will examine some of the essential arguments contained in earlier analyses, thereby laying the foundations for the central argument of the book. The case of Fiji has important implications for some of the notions that have been developed in this literature, particularly in relation to the idea of alternation in office between government and opposition and the conditions under which political opposition is regarded as legitimate. This discussion will involve also a consideration of some of the special problems associated with political opposition in those societies characterized as 'plural'.

On this basis, the rest of the book will examine the specific factors which combined to undermine the acceptance in Fiji of constitutional opposition--and therefore the practice of democratic politics. I shall here set out briefly the nature and setting of the problem, the main points to be drawn from the analysis of these, and the general arguments which sustain them.

Since independence in 1970, politics in Fiji has been dominated by a chiefly establishment drawn largely from the eastern regions of the island group. Through the Alliance Party, this élite group had managed (in one way or another) to retain power in successive electoral contests up until its outright defeat in the general elections of April 1987. The new government comprised a coalition of the National Federation Party (NFP),

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