When people think of Fiji, they usually see a picturesque sunset by the beach, a few palm trees and a happy relaxed local Fijian going about his day. This is rightfully fair, after all 95% of all tourists stay on resorts and never bother to go into the cities too experience what’s really going on. And what’s really going on in political terms is rather fascinating.
As its level of democracy is extremely low. So low in fact that it is classed as a ‘hybrid regime’.
A hybrid regime can be defined as half democratic half authoritarian. Where democratic rules exist but with authoritarian governance. Hybrid regimes are 3rd on the democracy index. The first being full democracy, the second flawed democracy and the fourth and final being authoritarian. Fiji currently sits 79th on its level of democracy, but search back through its history and you will find one of the most far-right nations that has ever existed on earth.
In just 2013, the nation held its first ever non-racial vote. Yes, you read that correctly a non-racial vote. Up until 2013, Fijians were only allowed to vote for the politician who shared their race and ethnicity, not their ideology and values. The different interests of both indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians have served to form much of the nation’s political landscape. This has caused four military coups since 1987 with the most recent coups in 2006 introducing martial law for a staggering eight full years.
The 2006 coup took place under extraordinary circumstances. Following several bills being passed that only favoured indigenous Fijians in an already unstable political climate, uproar commenced. With the Fijian army which was made up of roughly 95% indigenous Fijians siding with the Indo-Fijian political party and as a result, took over the government and enforced martial law.
Fast forward to 2018 and the nation held arguably its most stable election. This saw the Fiji First political party become re-elected and scrape through with 50% of the vote. Mr Bainimarama the leader, an indigenous Fijian born in 1954, has long advocated equal rights for the country’s minority ethnic Indian community.
All too often we hear of the dangers of far-right movements gaining momentum, especially in Europe. But when it takes place in a developing nation in the most extreme conditions the rest of the world hardly hears about it, nor takes any notice.