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Constitutional engineering and the alternative vote in Fiji: an assessment

Reilly, B. (1997) Constitutional engineering and the alternative vote in Fiji: an assessment. In: Lal, Brij V. and Larmour, Peter, (eds.) Electoral Systems in Divided Societies: The Fiji Constitution Review. Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.

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The single most important institutional issue for encouraging the development of peaceful multi-ethnic politics in Fiji is the design of the new electoral system. Electoral systems have long been recognised as one of the most important institutional mechanisms for shaping the nature of political competition-first because they are, to quote one electoral authority, 'the most specific manipulable instrument of politics' (Sartori 1968:273)-that is, they can be purposively designed to achieve particular outcomes-and second, because they structure the arena of political competition, offering incentives to behave in certain ways, and rewarding those who respond to these incentives with electoral success. The great potential of electoral system design for influencing political behaviour is thus that it can reward particular types of behaviour and place constraints on others. In terms of ethnically divided societies, for example, where ethnicity represents a fundamental political cleavage, particular electoral systems can reward candidates and parties who act in a cooperative, accommodative manner to rival groups; or they can punish these candidates and instead reward those who appeal only to their own ethnic group. Unfortunately, most academic studies of electoral systems are largely silent on the potential for electoral systems to produce these kinds of incentives.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs
Publisher: Australian National University
Copyright: © 1997 National Centre for Development Studies
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