Indigenous nationalism in Fiji: rethinking the politics of ethnicity

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The Pacific island state now know as the Republic of the Fiji Islands has been plagued by coups d’états since 1987, when elections forced the first change in government since independence was declared in 1970. These elections had resulted in the defeat of an indigenous elite by a broad coalition dominated by Indo-Fijians. A military coup less than six weeks later was justified in terms of the alleged threat to indigenous rights posed by the new government. Two further coups ensued, with the rhetoric of justification once again centering on indigenous rights vis-à-vis the perceived encroachment of Indo-Fijians. Politics in Fiji have therefore been dominated by ethnic struggles for dominance, with indigenous Fijians generally winning by virtue of their control of the military. However, the most recent coup, in December 2006, revealed some significant contradictions and confounded explanations of Fiji’s politics based on this simple dichotomy. In this instance, the commander of Fiji’s military forces led a coup against a government dominated by Fijian nationalists, claiming, among other things, that their government was based on racist principles and that Fiji needed a new way forward. This paper provides an analysis of this most recent episode in Fiji’s politics, focusing specifically on rival factions among indigenous Fijians and assessing the prospects for future constitutional rule. More generally, it considers the principles of indigenous political privilege vis-à-vis the rights of immigrant communities, and how these have played out in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Political Science Association 21st World Congress
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventInternational Political Science Association World Congress (21st : 2009) - Santiago, Chile
Duration: 1 Jul 20091 Jul 2009


ConferenceInternational Political Science Association World Congress (21st : 2009)
CitySantiago, Chile


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