Ethnic vote confusion

Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand Professor Jon Fraenkel (right) with Citizens Constitutional Forum Chief Executive Officer Sara Bulutani Mataitawakilai at the Role of Election in a Democracy Seminar in Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

ABOLISHING communal constituencies does not mean an end to ethnic voting, says Professor Jon Fraenkel from the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Prof Fraenkel was a guest speaker during a seminar on the role of elections in a democracy organised in Lautoka on Thursday.

He said there had been confused discussions about ethnic voting in Fiji.

“Getting rid of constituencies that classify people by race was a sensible and necessary reform, but it does not stop voters from supporting parties they perceive as defending their ethnic interests.

Nor are efforts to ban such parties likely either to be effective or helpful.

Even ostensibly non-ethnic parties can rely on a solid ethnic vote as we saw with the Fiji Labour Party in the 1990s and 2000.

“The signboards presently up around Fiji encouraging citizens to “embrace godliness, reject racism and bigotry” themselves testify to a continuing focus on ethnic politics.”

The two-hour long seminar was organised by the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum in collaboration with the University of the South Pacific and International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

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