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Political Parties in the Pacific Islands

Political Parties in the Pacific Islands OPEN ACCESS

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
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    Political Parties in the Pacific Islands
    Book Description:

    While political parties remain an indispensable institutional framework for representation and governance in a democracy, the democracies of many Pacific Islands nations are undermined by the weakness and inefficacy of their local political parties. Addressing the implications of the lack of established party systems across the Pacific, this collection seeks to illuminate the underlying assumptions and suppositions behind the importance of coherent and effective parties to overall democratic functioning. Focusing on the political systems of East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa, the coherent structure of the volume makes it consistently useful as both an articulate analytical text and a reference tool concerning the political composition, history and direction of Pacific states. Featuring contributions from scholars who are familiar names to even the most casual of Pacificists, Political Parties in the Pacific is the benchmark reference work on the political parties of the Pacific: an invaluable resource for students, scholars and researchers of the Pacific and international politics.  

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-76-9
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-26)
    Roland Rich

    ACCORDING TO DIAMOND, ‘political parties remain an indispensable institutional framework for representation and governance in a democracy.’¹ If so, many Pacific Island nations labour under a political disadvantage in the construction of their democracies because local political parties are generally weak and ineffective.² They tend to have little by way of policy platforms and therefore do not discharge the roles of aggregating interests, deliberating on policy or mediating between the policy interests of various social groups. Most political parties in the South-West Pacific lack systematic grassroots organisation and so cannot be expected to be active in civic education or consensus-building....

  2. (pp. 27-42)
    Steven Ratuva

    This chapter is concerned with the role of cultural tradition in political parties in the Pacific. Specifically, it explores how ‘tradition’ is deployed as an organising and mobilising schema, how it is transformed into a political ideology and how traditional institutions and leadership systems are used to facilitate party interests. The chapter argues that tradition plays a significant role in shaping the form and dynamics of political parties in the Pacific, with parties embracing tradition as an instrument of mobilisation and legitimisation. As a consequence political parties also become agents of political and cultural transformation and reproduction.

    Political parties are...

  3. (pp. 43-68)
    Jon Fraenkel

    AT FIRST SIGHT, the Pacific Islands seem like a graveyard for institutional determinist theories regarding the impact of electoral systems on party polarisation. Maurice Duverger’s well-known ‘sociological law’ was that first-past-the-post electoral rules tend to deliver two-party systems. Proportional representation systems were more loosely associated by Duverger with multi-party settings.¹ Yet in the Pacific, countries using first-past-the-post systems, such as the Solomon Islands and PNG (1975–2002), have developed multiple-party systems. The proportional representation-using territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Vanuatu have veered towards a two-camp polarisation around the issue of independence. Some first-past-the-post-using democracies, such as Palau and...

  4. (pp. 69-82)
    Joao M. Saldanha

    While Fretilin, the main group to resist Indonesian dominance between 1975 and 1999, still dominates Timor-Leste (earlier, East Timor) politics overwhelmingly, the transition to democratic elections in 2001 under the authority of the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) has witnessed the re-emergence of multi-party politics. While Fretilin maintains hold of more than 60 per cent of the seats in the fledgling legislature, representatives of the several minority parties also won seats. Of these, most have their origins in the initial emergence of Timor-Leste from Portuguese control in the 1970s, while others represent former factions of Fretilin. While...

  5. (pp. 83-102)
    R. J. May

    AT THE TIME of PNG’s independence in 1975, there was a small number of recently established political parties. The Australian Colonial Administration had had some doubts about encouraging the growth of parties in the emerging state, but, in the late 1960s, as parties spontaneously emerged, it extended its political education program to cover them. There was a widespread expectation, at independence, that a two- or three-dominant-party system would develop, in the context of a first-past-the-post electoral system, though there were some who feared that PNG, like much of post-colonial Africa, would succumb to military rule or a dominant one-party regime....

  6. (pp. 103-116)
    Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka

    IN LATE JUNE 2004, the then Opposition Leader in the Solomon Islands National Parliament, John Martin Garo, announced that he was ‘crossing the floor’ to join the Government.¹ About a week later, on July 8, Garo was sworn in as Minister of State assisting the Prime Minister and took his oath of allegiance to a government he had spent the past year opposing.²

    In many other parliamentary democracies, the defection of the Leader of the Opposition to the Government side, and his immediate appointment as Cabinet Minister, would have attracted widespread political debate. This was not the case in the...

  7. (pp. 117-142)
    Michael G. Morgan

    This chapter details the origins of Vanuatu’s political parties, their policy platforms, parliamentary representation and core constituents, including the particular linguistic, regional and religious biases of each party. In so doing, it charts the progressive fragmentation of Vanuatu’s political parties since the late 1980s. At independence in 1980, party politics were polarised largely between the monolithic anglophone Vanua’aku Pati (VP) and an alliance of predominantly francophone opposition groups, the Union of Moderate Parties (UMP). For almost a decade, the VP dominated the Parliament, commanding a nearly two-thirds majority. After 1988, the VP splintered into progressively smaller factions. The subsequent fragmentation...

  8. (pp. 143-164)
    Alaine Chanter

    New Caledonia has more than 50 years’ experience with party politics yet finds itself today in a situation of party fragmentation that some consider disconcertingly similar to that of neighbouring states with far less experience in party politics and Western political institutions. The reason for this disarray is, at first blush, paradoxical. The two main political groupings that either coalesced or were forged around the issue of independence are now being destabilised by this very issue, at a time when both claim success in relation to it. The anti-independence Rassemblement pour la Calédonie dans la République (RPCR) and the pro-independence...

  9. (pp. 165-184)
    Alumita L. Durutalo

    The Fiji Group consists of more than 300 islands, which were colonised by the British in 1874, a period concurrent with the expansive phase of industrial capitalist development and commercial growth in Europe. Through colonisation, Fiji was absorbed into the capitalist world economy, joining Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Before colonisation, indigenous Fijians believed that they had lived in Fiji since ‘time immemorial’, translated in Fijian as ‘e na dua na gauna makawa sara’. The latest archaeological evidence of human settlement in Fiji, estimated to be 3,000 years old, was discovered recently on the island of Moturiki in the Lomaiviti...

  10. (pp. 185-206)
    Asofou So’o

    Sämoa gained independence on January 1, 1962, and its constitution¹ provides for a parliamentary democracy of the Westminster model. Until the 1993 enactment of the 1991 constitutional amendment² that extended the parliamentary term from three to five years, general elections were held every three years to select representatives to occupy the 49 seats of Parliament. There are 41 territorial constituencies, six of which have two seats each because of their larger voter population. Upolu Island has four of these seats and the larger island of Savai’i has the other two. Thus, of the 49 seats in Parliament, 47 are occupied...