Parliament of Fiji
|Parliament of Fiji|
|Government Buildings, Suva|
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The Parliament of Fiji is the unicameral legislature of the Republic of the Fiji. It consists of 50 members elected every 4 years using open-list proportional representation in one multi-member nationwide constituency.
The Fijian Parliament dates from 10 October 1970, when Fiji became independent from the United Kingdom. The Parliament replaced the former colonial legislative body, the Legislative Council, which had existed in various forms throughout the entire colonial period. A grandfather clause in the 1970 Constitution, which was adopted on independence, provided for the old Legislative Council to be renamed as the House of Representatives and remain in office, pending the first post-independence elections in 1972.
Since independence, Parliamentary rule has been interrupted three times. The first interruption was from 1987 through 1992, owing to two coups d'état in 1987 instigated by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka. The second interruption occurred when a coup in 2002 attempted by George Speight rendered the parliamentary system unworkable and resulted in Parliament's dissolution. A general election in 2001 restored the democratic system. The Republic of Fiji Military Forces overthrew the government again in 2006. No further elections would be held until the September 2014 election.
The composition of Parliament has changed over the years. From 1972 to 1987, there were 52 Representatives and 22 Senators. In 1992, Parliament was enlarged to 70 Representatives and 34 Senators, figures marginally adjusted in 1999 to provide for 71 Representatives and 32 Senators. 25 of these were elected by universal suffrage. The remaining 46 were reserved for Fiji's ethnic communities and were elected from communal electoral rolls: 23 Fijians, 19 Indo-Fijians, 1 Rotuman, and 3 "General electors" (Europeans, Chinese, and other minorities). The upper chamber of the parliament, the Senate, had 32 members, formally appointed by the President on the nomination of the Great Council of Chiefs (14), the Prime Minister (9), the Leader of the Opposition (8), and the Rotuman Islands Council (1).
The Senate was less powerful than the House of Representatives; the Senate could not initiate legislation, but it could reject or amend it. The Senate's powers over financial bills were more restricted: it could veto them in their entirety, but could not amend them. The House of Representatives could override a Senatorial veto by passing the bill a second time in the parliamentary session immediately following the one in which it was rejected by the Senate, after a minimum period of six months. Amendments to the Constitution were excepted: the veto of the Senate was absolute. Following the passage of a bill by the House of Representatives, the Senate had 21 days (7 days in the case of a bill classified as "urgent") to approve, amend, or reject it; if at the expiry of that period the Senate had done nothing about it, it was deemed to have passed the bill. As a result of the parliament building having only one debating chamber, the Senate and House of Representatives used the same chamber at different times.
The 2013 Constitution promulgated by the military-backed interim government abolished the Senate and the House of Representatives, instituting a single-chamber 50-member Parliament.
The Parliament of Fiji consists of 50 members and is led by the Prime Minister of Fiji, who is the leader of the largest party of Government. The current Parliament was elected in the 2014 election, with FijiFirst, lead by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, holding a majority of 32 seats. The Social Democratic Liberal Party, lead by Teimumu Kepa, gained 15 seats and formed the Opposition. The National Federation Party, lead by Biman Prasad, gained 3 seats and became the only party on the crossbench.