Fiji's 1997-2006 experiment with IRV

Fiji has a 71-member House of Representatives, all elected from single-member districts and constituencies. Fiji used plurality voting for most of its history, also with ethnic quotas. That is, a certain number of seats were reserved for members of each racial group. However, in 1997-1998 (new constitution) Fiji switched to instant runoff voting (IRV) and also introducing 25 "open" constituencies that were not ethinicity-based or geography-based (which due to considerable racial segregation, had a similar effect). Still, though, a considerable number of ethinicity-based seats remain, and also a considerable number of seats get nominated by the "Great Council of Chiefs" which also would seem to be designed to ensure a certain amount of race-based decision making.

Ethnic quotas in Fiji 2006
23indigenous Fijians
19Indian Fijians
1Rotuman Islanders
3Other (Caucasians, Chinese, and Banaban Islanders)

Another twist in Fiji's IRV system is that the voter is allowed to use a pre-specified ranking of all the candidates – devised by the parties and worked out before the election via interparty dealmaking.

How well did it work? With (now) 8 years experience, we can start to evaluate that.

The pre-specified rank-orders idea has proven controversial. According to wikipedia,

Since its implementation, the voting system has proved controversial, with some politicians claiming that it allows political parties to "fix" election results by making electoral pacts for the transfer of votes. Some have alleged, for example, that many indigenous Fijians cast votes for the Christian Democratic Alliance (VLV) or the Party of National Unity (PANU) in the 1999 election, unaware that those parties had signed agreements with the Indo-Fijian-dominated Fiji Labour Party to transfer votes from low-polling VLV and PANU candidates to the FLP, thereby allowing the FLP to win numerous seats. Conversely, many Indo-Fijian supporters of the National Federation Party (NFP) in the 2001 poll may not have been aware that votes for NFP candidates, all of whom lost, were to be transferred to the indigenous-dominated United Fiji Party (SDL). Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase of the SDL has admitted that his party won a number of seats on NFP "preferences," as transferred votes are known.
Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi expressed his own misgivings about the voting system on 3 November 2005. He said it made the work of political parties much easier and denied freedom of choice to voters, as a vote for a political party was ultimately a vote for any other party to which that party had decided to transfer its preferences. "In hindsight, it would perhaps have been preferable to leave the voter to make up his own mind," Madraiwiwi said.

What has been the result of Fiji's adoption of the Instant Runoff System?

Apparently, (as had previously happened in IRV seats in Malta, Australia, and Ireland) 2-party domination is setting in. Consider the 2006 election. A record high of 25 parties registered for it. But the election results were heavily dominated by only two parties which appeared to continue to solidify what will probably become a stranglehold on power. Indeed, there were 71 people selected using IRV, and only 2 of them were from a party other than the major two (plus 2 unaffliliated). This is a big reduction versus the earlier election of 2001, in which 10 came from a party other than the major two (plus 2 additional unaffliliated).

2006 Fiji House of Representatives election results (767695 voters, 71 seats)
Party (top-rank) Vote% #Seats +/-
Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) 44.59 36 +2
Fiji Labour Party (FLP) 39.18 31 +4
National Federation Party (NFP) 6.20 0 -1
National Alliance Party of Fiji (NAPF) 2.93 0
United Peoples Party (UPP) 0.84 2 +1
Party of National Unity (PANU) 0.81 0
New Labour Unity Party 0 0 -2
All other parties ≤0.48 each 0
Independent candidates 4.89 (combined) 2


According to news reports in early December 2006, Fiji is now no longer an IRV democracy, because of a military coup. I do not see how this can be regarded as a good sign about IRV...

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