Understanding Electoral Systems - what’s next for Fiji?
CDI Hosts Workshop in Indonesia | Nusa Dua | 19-22 November 2012
Recent developments in Fiji have opened up possibilities for political change in that country. In March 2012, the interim Prime Minister currently in power in Suva announced the appointment of a Constitutional Commission, charged with the task of drafting a new Constitution to be submitted to a Constituent Assembly. Elections are to be held in 2014, under a new electoral system based on proportional representation.
These developments provided a chance for political parties and other organisations in Fiji to join public discussion and debate about the proposed constitution and the most appropriate electoral system for their country. CDI therefore took the initiative to organise a workshop on electoral systems for Fiji, in cooperation with the Institute of Peace and Democracy (IPD) in Bali. Both CDI and IPD have established expertise regarding international experience with the design and implementation of the many types of electoral systems and could therefore help equip Fiji’s political organisations to better understand the various systems and their ramifications.
A group of Fiji citizens from a variety of political and civil society backgrounds were invited, with 18 participants attending the activity held from 19 to 22 November 2012 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. The workshop was not designed to favour or advocate any particular choice of electoral system, but rather aimed to build understanding of the varying systems and experience of different countries throughout the world.
In particular, the agenda emphasised that various electoral systems in use internationally have different political effects and practical implications. These effects can influence the pressures and incentives encountered by political parties and candidates as they campaign to win office. Different countries have adopted a range of systems in order to try to shape political outcomes. These have included attempts to proportionally represent different communities, establish workable majorities for the formation of government and to reconcile competing ethnic, religious or other groupings in society.
The aims of the workshop were to:
- introduce participants to the main types and features of electoral systems;
- provide insights into techniques for analysing different aspects of electoral systems;
- identify some key policy issues surrounding the choice of an electoral system; and
- highlight the political dimensions of electoral policy and electoral system choice, in both the short and long term.
Separate sessions dealt with the choice of an individual to fill a single vacancy; single-member constituency systems; multi-member constituency systems (including majoritarian approaches, list proportional representation and semi-proportional systems); the single transferable vote; mixed systems; political impacts of different systems; and practical challenges with system implementation.
The workshop was held in Indonesia because of that country’s considerable experience over the last 13 years in the use of different electoral systems in support of a transition to and consolidation of democracy. Indonesia has used three different variants of a proportional representation (PR) electoral system since 1999, and since some form of PR is being advocated by the Fiji government, this experience was of immediate relevance to the workshop participants. A CDI-IPD panel discussion on Indonesian electoral systems provided insights into the political implications of the use of PR in its different forms. A highlight of the workshop was a visit to the Denpasar offices of the Indonesian General Elections Commission (KPU), in which the senior provincial leaders of the KPU briefed participants on the practical challenges associated with implementing and administering various models of PR.
The workshop was facilitated by a team with diverse backgrounds in electoral systems analysis, democracy building, Pacific electoral history and the evolution of the electoral system in Indonesia.
At the conclusion of the workshop, participants expressed a strong view that their understanding of the issues had been significantly enhanced. A discussion about the way forward for CDI and IPD programs in Fiji provided a number of very interesting ideas for future activities that could support the process of Fiji’s return to democracy.
Click on the links in the table above right for further details and documents.