Fiji Labour Party

From Academic Kids

Template:Politics of Fiji The Fiji Labour Party (FLP) is a political party in Fiji. Most of its support at present comes from the Indo-Fijian community, although it is officially multiracial and its first leader was an indigenous Fijian, Dr. Timoci Bavadra. It holds observer status with the Socialist International.

The party was launched on 6 July 1985 under the auspices of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, at the Fiji Teachers Association hall in Suva. It faced its first electoral test in municipal elections held three months later, when it won control of the Suva City Council and its candidate, Bob Kumar was elected Mayor. The FLP also won seats on the Labasa, Nadi, and Ba Town Councils, and subsequently secured a seat on the Lautoka Town Council at a byelection.

The Fiji Labour Party formed its first government (in coalition with the National Federation Party) after elections in April 1987 gave the coalition 28 of the 52 parliamentary seats. Its election was overwhelmingly supported by Indo-Fijians, but resented by many ethnic Fijians, only 9 percent of whom had voted for the coalition. Strikes and demonstrations followed, and on May 14 the army seized power.

Bavadra's widow, Kuini (later Adi Kuini Speed) took the leadership of the party after her husband's death in 1989, but was deposed in 1991 by Mahendra Chaudhry. She later left the party (in 1995) after objecting to the direction in which Chaudhry was taking it. In the 1990s, the Labour Party lost most of its ethnic Fijian support, and the 1994 election showed that its support among Indo-Fijians was declining as well. It won only 7 seats that year.

The fortunes of the Labour Party revived in the later 1990s, as the government of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka became unpopular amid admissions of womanizing and reports of high-level corruption in his administration. In the election of 1999, the Labour Party swept to power, winning 37 seats in the 71 member House of Representatives. Chaudhry became Fiji's first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.

On May 19 2000, Chaudhry's government was overthrown in a putsch led by George Speight, a businessman whom the Labour government had fired from management of Fiji's lucrative pine industry. Elections to restore democracy were held in September 2001; the Labour Party, hurt by intra-party fighting and the defection of key figures including Tupeni Baba, won the most votes (34.8 percent), but only 28 of the 71 seats in the House of Representatives (Fiji), four less than the United Fiji Party of Laisenia Qarase. The inability of the Labour Party and National Federation Party (NFP) (the only other political party with significant Indo-Fijian support) to reach a deal on exchanging "preferences" in Fiji's transferable voting system, and the NFP's decision to give its preferences to the United Fiji Party instead, probably cost Labour the election: despite their having been allies in the 1980s, the two parties have since become bitter enemies.

Since 2001, Mahendra Chaudhry has survived a leadership challenge and has rebuilt the Labour Party. In recent times, it has won several key byelections, and appears well-placed to mount a credible challenge to the Qarase government in 2006. Chaudhry's strained relationship with Prime Minister Qarase has prevented the Labour Party from being represented in the Cabinet, despite the constitutional stipulation that any political party with more than eight seats in the House of Representatives is entitled to proportionate representation in the Cabinet. On July 18 2003 the Supreme Court of Fiji ruled that Qarase's exclusion of the Labour Party breached the constitution, and demanded that the situation be rectified. Negotiations, appeals, and counter-appeals followed, which delayed the appointment of Labour Party ministers. In June 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the Labour Party was entitled to 14 out of 30 Cabinet posts. Qarase announced that he would accept and implement the order, but his refusal to include Chaudhry himself in any cabinet lineup continued to stall negotiations about the composition of the cabinet, until Chaudhry announced towards the end of 2004 that the Labour Party was no longer interested in joining the government, and would remain in opposition for the remainder of the parliamentary term.

The party calls for an independent inquiry into the 2000 coup, and for compensation to be paid to its victims, including police officers and military personnel. The party has backed medical cover for all workers, and has undertaken court action aimed at removing Value Added Tax (VAT) from basic items. It also proposes a five-year plan for economic recovery.

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