Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Cabinet system
Fiji has the Westminster system - executive authority is vested nominally in a President, but exercised in practice by a Cabinet of Ministers, presided over by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is formally appointed, but not chosen, by the President: the President must appoint as Prime Minister someone who can control a majority of votes in the House of Representatives. In practice, this is normally the leader of the largest political party or coalition in the house. If there is no clear majority in the House of Representatives, however, the President's role becomes more important: he or she must assume the role of arbitrator and open negotiations with the leaders of the various political parties, in the hope of finding someone whom a majority will accept as Prime Minister. In the event of that failing to take place, the President must dissolve the House of Representatives and call an early election.
Cabinet Ministers are formally appointed by the President, but he is constitutionally required to do so only on the advice of the Prime Minister. An unusual feature of the Fijian constitution is its provision for a compulsory coalition cabinet - even if one party has a parliamentary majority in its own right. Every political party with more than 8 seats in the 71-member parliament must be offered a proportionate number of cabinet posts. If the Prime Minister wishes to give cabinet posts to members of a party with fewer than 8 representatives, he must do so at the expense of his own party, not of other parties in the coalition. This provision was written into the 1997 Constitution with a view to forcing Fiji's political parties, which represented ethnic communities for the most part, to cooperate rather than compete for absolute power. In adopting this novel feature, Fijians noted that a similar system has been operating successfully in Switzerland for decades. More recently, it has been tried (with far less success) in Northern Ireland.
The multi-party cabinet model has never been successfully maintained in Fiji, however. The Chaudhry government refused to include the Fijian Political Party in the 1999-2000 cabinet, despite the party's holding the required 8 parliamentary seats. Then following the election of 2001, Mahendra Chaudhry, the leader of the Fiji Labour Party, was involved in litigation against the Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, on the grounds that Qarase had unconstitutionally refused to include the Labour Party in the Cabinet. On 18 July, 2003, Fiji's Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of the Labour Party was in breach of the Constitution, and demanded that the situation be rectified. Amid appeals, counter-appeals, and negotiations, the situation had still not been resolved as of June 2004, when the Supreme Court handed down a further ruling that the Labour Party was entitled to 14 out of 30 posts in the Cabinet. Qarase announced that he would abide by the ruling and would appoint enlarge the Cabinet to include the requisite number of Labour Party ministers, but not Chaudhry himself. This continued to stall negotiations, until late November 2004, when Chaudhry announced that the Labour Party had decided to remain in opposition for the remainder of the present parliamentary term, which is supposed to expire in 2006, although rumours abound that the government is looking at an early 2005 election.
On 16 December 2004, Prime Minister Qarase announced that he would try to get Mahendra Chaudhry's agreement to amend the constitution to abolish the multi-party cabinet rule, which he called "ridiculous," and replace it with a requirement for the cabinet to be "multi-ethnic." This would require a change to Qarase's own cabinet, which at present contains only one Indo-Fijian and only three non-indigenous Fijians.
As of October 2004, the Cabinet was as follows.
|Prime Minister and Minister for Fijian Affairs, Culture and Heritage, Minister for National Reconciliation and Unity, ALTA and Sugar Industry||Laisenia Qarase||United Fiji Party|
|Attorney General And Minister For Justice||Qoriniasi Bale||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Finance And National Planning & Communications||Ratu Jone Kubuabola||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Education||Ro Teimumu Vuikaba Kepa||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Commerce, Business Development & Investment||Tomasi Vuetilovoni||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Home Affairs And Immigration||Josefa Vosanibola||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Foreign Affairs And External Trade||Kaliopate Tavola||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Tourism||Pita Nacuva||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Regional Development||Ted Young||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Fisheries And Forests||Konisi Yabaki||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Agriculture, Sugar And Land Resettlement||Ilaitia Tuisese||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Health||Solomone Naivalu||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Lands And Mineral Resources||Samisoni Tikoinasau †||Conservative Alliance|
|Minister For Women, Social Welfare & Poverty Alleviation||Asenaca Caucau||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Transport And Shipping||Simione Kaitani||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Local Government, Housing, Squatter Settlement & Environment||Pio Wong||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Labour, Industrial Relations And Productivity||Kenneth Zinck||New Labour Unity Party|
|*Minister For Public Enterprises And Public Sector Reform||Jonetani Galuinadi||United Fiji Party|
|Minister For Works And Energy||Savenaca Draunidalo||Independent|
|Minister For Youth, Employment Opportunities And Sports||Isireli Leweniqila||Conservative Alliance|
|Minister For Multi-Ethnic Affairs||(vacant‡)||...|
|Minister For Information & Media Relations||Senator Ahmed Ali||United Fiji Party|
|Assistant Minister, Prime Minister's Office||Marieta Rigamoto||Independent|
|Assistant Minister For Fijian Affairs, Culture, and Heritage||Nanise Nagusuca||United Fiji Party|
|Assistant Minister For Local Government, Housing, Squatter Settlement and Environment||Joji Banuve||United Fiji Party|
|Assistant Minister For Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement||Isireli Tuvuki||United Fiji Party|
|Assistant Minister for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation||Losena Salabula||United Fiji Party|
|Assistant Minister for Health||Tomasi Sauqaqa||United Fiji Party|
- †Samisoni Tikoinasau was appointed Minister for Lands and Ministerial Resources on 8 April 2005, to replace Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who resigned following his conviction and imprisonment for his role in the Fiji coup of 2000.
- ‡The position of Minister For Multi-Ethnic Affairs was declared vacant on 30 September 2004, when George Shiu Raj resigned, amid accusations of misuse of government funds. Prime Minister Qarase announced that a new minister would not be appointed; Qarase himself would take over responsibility for the portfolio pending the outcome of a police investigation. If exonerated by the inquiry, Raj might be reinstated, Qarase hinted. On 16 December 2004, Qarase reiterated that Raj's position was being kept open for him, pending the outcome of the investigation.
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