Most Likely Outcome: Fiji, a "Guarded" Democracy

If you read nothing else this weekend, please read 
Dr Paul Buchanan's article.

Apart from one factual error (on the composition of the Constitution Commission) this a sound analysis of political possibilities and probabilities in Fiji.  I have to say this because most of what  Dr Buchanan has said on one analytical article, I have been saying in "bits and pieces" for the past year or so.

Hence my constant references to what is realistically possible; the futility of the "absolutist" opposition of the old political parties and the trade unions; the need for  criticism of Government to be helpful;  the self-imposed irrelevance of international actors such as Australia and New Zealand; the futility of sanctions; the need to grasp the full, longer-term picture beyond the shifts and changes of individual events; and my prediction that the military will insist on a constitution that fulfills its "vision" and will sit in the wings after 2014 to ensure the constitution is upheld.

Dr Buchanan calls this a "guarded" democracy which is is one step up on a "limited" democracy but not yet a "liberal" democracy.  Chile, Brazil and South Korea are successful examples. -- Croz Walsh

Futures Forecast: A “Guarded” Democracy in Fiji
by Paul G. Buchanan*

Revelations that the Fijian military-bureaucratic regime has rejected important aspects of the draft constitution submitted by a panel of international jurists led by professor Yash Ghai make clear the intention of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) to continue to play a core role in Fijian politics after the 2014 elections.
That has led observers to question the RFMF’s commitment to democracy, and led some to wonder if the elections will even be held as scheduled. As things stand a constituent assembly selected from a variety of stake-holding groups by current Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Baimimarama, will be convened in March 2013 with a charge to deliver the constitution for ratification by September. Once ratified, that constitution will be the foundational charter under which the September 2014 elections will be held.

There appears to be a consensus amongst foreign observers that the military objections to the draft charter are a sign of its reneging on its promise to restore democratic governance in 2014. Many see this as a sign of bad faith on the part of Commodore Baimimarama and the RFMF. In truth, this view may have neglected what the RFMF had in mind all along when it proposed the 2014 elections and hand-over date. What it had in mind was not a liberal democracy akin to those of its traditional patrons. Instead, what it envisioned, and which it has been pretty honest about when speaking of its vision of Fiji’s political future, is something that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America and Southeast Asia: a “protected” or “guarded” democracy as a successor the the military-authoritarian regime. The concept is neither new or novel, and the learning curve derived from the precedent of larger countries is clear in the Fijian case. Fijian use of comparative referents is not unusual in any event.

Before detailing the specifics of “guarded” democratic regimes and the future of such in Fiji, it is worth reviewing some basic issues in constitution-drafting. Constitutions basically outline procedural and substantive guarantees. Procedural guarantees refers to the rules of the political “game:” who gets to vote, how they vote, how the votes are counted, who is eligible for office, how voting is apportioned, the duties and responsibilities of government and its respective agencies, the rights are people entitled to in and outside of the political process, etc. Substantive guarantees refer to the privileges accorded citizens: free speech, freedom of thought, association and movement, the right to cultural autonomy and identity, and often much more. Some constitutions are drafted along “minimalist” lines in that they refer mostly to procedural rather than substantive guarantees. Others are more ambitious, detailing substantive rights to education, health, housing, welfare, caloric intake, a role in governance and redress for past injustices. It goes without saying that the latter are harder to implement. In most instances constitutions are a blend of procedural and substantive guarantees, usually with an eye to providing the basic foundations for governance in which the rule of law can apply (and in which substantive guarantees can be negotiated).
A “guarded” or “protected” democracy is one in which elected civilian authorities constitute the government, and in which the universal rule of law applies. However, unlike liberal democracies, where the military is subordinate to civilian authority,  in guarded democracies the military as an institution serves as the ultimate arbiter of policy decisions.
Unlike limited democracies, in which the franchise and collective rights are circumscribed, in guarded democracies there are no limitations on individual or collective freedoms, including the right to vote. Nor is the military directly involved in politics. Instead, in a guarded democracy the military serves as an unelected overseer of the political system precisely because it sees itself as an apolitical, autonomous and professional commonweal organization not beholden to partisan interests.
Guarded democracies are not military authoritarianism wrapped in civilian garb.
If the civilian government operates within the operational and policy parameters established by the military in the transition to electoral rule, then the military stays in the barracks and out of politics. It is only when civilian authorities are perceived by the military hierarchy to be overstepping their bounds (as defined by the military), that the armed forces as an institution intervene in the political process. This makes the military the power behind the throne and encourages self-limiting behavior on the part of civilian political elites.

Getting the opposition to agree to compete under the constitutional framework and electoral rules of the military regime, and to accept military oversight upon entering government, is a two-step “pact-making” process. Transitions from military-buraucratic regimes often involve implicit or explicit “pacts” between political elites. The first step in the pact-making sequence is agreement amongst opposition factions to compete under military tutelage. The second step is the reaching of agreement between the united (f not unified) political opposition and the military elite on accepting the rules in exchange for the outcome. The opposition agrees to compete under military-imposed conditions and the military agrees to accept the electoral result regardless of who wins. Under those “pacted” conditions the military relinquishes overt control of government while retaining guarantees of its institutional interests.

From its statements the Fijian military regime has been clear in what it expects of the new constitution. First, it expects that the concept of one adult citizen=one vote will apply. Second, it expects that all ethnic and sectoral preferences in politics will be eliminated. Third, it expects that public service autonomy and freedom from political interference will be enshrined in law (ostensibly as an anti-corruption measure but also as a means of ensuring the positions of the numerous military and ex-military appointees hired into the public service over the last six years). Fourth, it expects that the military will be allocated the role of “guardian” of the nation, including oversight and veto power over the policy decisions of elected civilian political authorities. The latter, which is a substantive guarantee to the RFMF, is designed as a check on the demagogic and populist instincts of civilian politicians. Coupled with the pro-military bias of the post-authoritarian public bureaucracy, this limits the effective power of civilian government when it comes to making policy or political choices inimical to the military vision of the “proper” role of civilian elected authority in the Fijian context.

Although there are many specific points of detail in its ideal version, the Baimimarama regime prefers a constitution with a broad procedural minimum and selective substantive guarantees that favor military institutional interests.

That is why the RFMF has rejected the draft constitution. Due to the tone of the rejection and the often personalized nature of the remarks of military spokespeople with regard to the reasons for the rejection, the regime will not request revisions from the international consitution-drafting committee. Instead, the regime will use offer its own revised constitutional template as the basis for the deliberations of the constituent assembly.  This includes elimination of provisions drafted by the Constitutional Committee that give civil society actors a formal place in political decision-making and agenda-setting, and insertion of military guarantees along the lines mentioned above. The March 2013 date for appointment of the constituent assembly will go ahead on schedule, as will the September 2013 delivery and ratification of the new constitution. Regardless of the concerns of foreign and domestic actors about the nature of the post-authoritarian regime, Commodore Baimimarama and his supporters have the dominant position in the lead-up to these milestones.

The regime’s position is strengthened because large parts of Fijian society support its views on constitutional reform, and it has the support of foreign states, China and Russia in particular, regardless of the final charter or the nature of the post-authoritarian regime. So long as that regime meets its (diplomatic, social and economic) contractual obligations to its supporters and foreign states, it will be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the majority of domestic and foreign actors.

This leaves the domestic opposition as well as foreign states that support a complete transition to elected civilian rule in a quandary. Some foreign actors such as Australia and New Zealand have financially supported the constitutional panel’s draft-making, and have tacitly admitted that the previous sanctions regime imposed on the military authoritarians by a group of Western states has failed.  The domestic opposition has been vocal about its opprobrium of Commodore Baimimarama and his colleagues, seeing no role for them, either individually or institutionally, in the post-authoritarian regime. Yet neither set of actors can play a dominant role in, much less set the terms of the negotiations that will determine the final constitutional draft submitted in September 2013.

In light of these factors, it would seem that the best option for “pro-democracy”  interests to regard the constitution-drafting process and subsequent elections leading to a “guarded” democracy as a step forward towards “genuine” democracy rather than as a reneging on a promise by the Baimimarama regime. Given realities on the ground, adoption of the latter posture will be counter-productive and further alienate the Fijian civil-military coalition from foreign and domestic interlocutors. Adoption of the former stance allows these interlocutors to stay in the game, metaphorically speaking, in order to pursue an incremental gains strategy in which the gradual evolution towards liberal democracy (which includes military subordination to civilian elected authority and institutions) is advanced. That may be a long-term game, but it could well be the only game with a chance of success if success is defined as the end of military guardianship of elected government.

Already, differences in approach are evident between key foreign states. Australia has responded with caution, agreeing with some of the Baimimarama regime’s objections to the draft charter. This appears indicative of an incremental gains approach to the issue of Fijian democratization. New Zealand and Samoa have responded more negatively, arguing that the rejection of the draft constitution is evidence of the military regime’s disinterest in real democratic promotion. The US and other external actors, to include China, India and Russia, have remained largely silent on the matter, which in diplomatic parlance equates to tacit acceptance of the regime’s position.

Foreign non-governmental organizations, including the international union movement, also take a negatively absolutist stance, decrying a dictatorial take-over of the constitution-drafting process. The trouble with the negatively absolutist view is that it offers no incentive structure for the Fijian regime to do anything other than its current course of action. Moreover, the disincentive structure that it favors, sanctions, suspensions and exclusion, simply have not and will not work. Thus those who advocate such a view, be they states or non-state actors, have no leverage in the process. That is why, even if by default or as a second-best option, the incremental gains strategy is the best option for those interested in seeing Fiji progress away from military-authoritarian rule.
Futures Forecast: The Fijian Constitutional Congress will deliver a constitutional draft in 2013 that conforms to the military-authoritarian regime’s preferred vision. This will be ratified and elections leading to the installation of a “guarded” democratic regime will be held in September 2014. The post-authoritarian regime will be recognized as legitimate by the international community. The influence of Commodore Baimimarama and RFDF command will remain pervasive in Fijian politics regardless of whether the Commodore runs for elected office or not.
  * Dr Paul G. Buchanan is the Director and Principal of 36th Parallel Assessments, a non-partisan, non-governmental geopolitical risk and strategic assessment consultancy based in Auckland. He is a former intelligence and policy analyst and consultant to US government security agencies and  a US citizen with permanent residence in New Zealand. He has taught at the National University of Singapore, University of Auckland, New College of Florida,  University of Arizona, Monterey Institute of International Studies and US Naval Postgraduate School, and has held research appointments in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Portugal and the US. He has received Fulbright, Heinz, Kellogg, Tinker, Council on Foreign Relations and Pacific Rim Universities fellowships as well as numerous other awards. 


Gatekeeper said…
All very well to be looking towards 'incremental gains' in democracy, but who is 'guarding the guardians'? If the guardians themselves are substantially benefitting from organised and transnational crime, if they have their fingers (or whole fists?) in the cookie jar already, what then? The stewardship of the guardians must be beyond reproach, surely, for any determined democratic outcome. Look at Egypt and its abysmal plight now. Shall they have to turn to a tainted and fully entrepreneurial military which the United States has so liberally supplied? How else shall the economy be sustained? The bedrock of all governance of whatever hue.
The continual decline of Fiji said…
So who will 'guard' the military and its abuses?
Anonymous said…
How can you call something "limited"or "guarded"? Who created these artifical terms?

Democracy is democracy. You either have it or you don't.

People of Fiji, you can vote for whoever you want. The RFMF will control the elected "puppets".

That is not democracy. That is an

Oxford Dictionary: Democracy: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives:

The whole population!!! Not the Commander of the RFMF.

Oxford Dectionary: Autocracy: a system of government by one person with absolute power.

Call it for what it is, without the semantic manipulation.
Anonymous said…
Note the interesting term: 'Self-limiting elites' in Dr Paul Buchanan's analysis. He should elucidate further. Elites?.....had plenty of those! Self-limiting? Had plenty of that too! So glib, so blithe to prescribe for others what one would be loathe to prescribe for oneself. Sa dina.... Dr Buchanan?
Joe said…
Judging from the type of democracy we had pre Dec 2006, a guided democracy is an absolute must for Fiji at this stage. Once we see off the old horses, and new and young blood with a clear conscience are at the helm, we will be OK after that. Except a handful, I am sure nobody else would like to see Fiji in the hands of the kepas, samisonis, chaudharys, qarases and the likes.
Crosbie Walsh said…
Anonymous, Dictionaries summarize in a few words. No one really interested in democracy would limit their readings to a dictionary. If you read further, you'd find there are many types of democracy. Think USA with its gun laws, the UK with its House of Lords, Switzerland with its frequent referenda, NZ and Australia with their different race records, Singapore with its restrictions on some human rights, and the old Fiji with its unelected Senate, its powerful unelected GCC, and its unequal electorates where votes were of unequal value. Few concepts (democracy, love, freedom, etc.) can be seen as absolutes, the same in degree and never changing. This is not semantic manipulation. It is how the world is.
Crosbie Walsh said…
Sorry you do not know what 'self-limited elites' means in the context of Dr Buchanan'a article. Most people reading this blog would not need further elucidation. Sorry also that you found the need to query Dr Buchanan's credentials and motives. I take it you disagree with him. Why not say so, and elucidate. Sa dina indeed!
Crosbie Walsh said…
You make two points: 1) Guarding the military and 2) its "abuses." If all goes to plan, post-2014 the RFMF will have no further direct influence in government. They will only intervene if the constitution is violated. 2014 will probably be the cut-out date (and I hope it is) but it could be progressive over a period of up to ten years, as was the case with Chile, the example cited by Dr Buchanan. 2) Abuses can mean many things to many people. Proven physical abuses, which occurred soon after the coup, have been punished in court. Beating up detainees, although not to be condoned, did not start with the 2006 Coup. Restrictions on media freedom, freedom of assembly and movement, etc., have now been mainly lifted and were considered necessary at the time. Amnesty will not be given to military personnel charged with violence against civilians. As for the "continual decline", this is not true. It's a rocky road but many things have improved since 2006, more obviously in recent months. You only look at one side of he ledger: Government has done many good things. Some have been mentioned in this blog but you make no mention of them. Give credit where it is due.
Ian Simpson, Taveuni said…
Peel the onion, the core is about our "representative" system, which we as a nation have not addressed, and thus no discussion. Ideally, after such discussion-negotiation, there should have been a referendum on a basic system we could agree on and then it should have been left to an assembly to hone the details within that system with our focused input.

We have been trapped in a Westminster system by default, and distracted by electoral systems, which is only the house, not the foundation. Build on stone, this Westminster system, is in my opinion, quicksand, and the least preferable of three systems.

I initially advocated for a presidential system, but then considered that if we in Fiji want a robust democracy in the future then a good start might be a number of years practising consensus politics.

This led me to believe a one party state can work for us. A state funded party that will give the whole populace opportunity to engage and take ownership of the process. Fiji has no "democracy" at the local level, unlike more sophisticated states, in addition it is not homogeneous country like Samoa, Japan, (Singapore- economics), nor a country that has a citizenry that shares the same economic values.
Race (20?), religion + denominations (20?) language(20?)and economic system. (2)
Those states that do have a homogeneous society and did not have a traumatic transition from autocracy succeeded. Autocracies that were brutal created fertile ground for alternative ideologies in politics. We have a smorgasbord board of examples of differing systems, successful and unsuccessful, why are we trapped in “Westminster default.”

What is the point of a 'Constitution Commission” , other than to search out, present, discuss and allow the people of Fiji to choose. This still has not been done, and now it is rumoured we may be having a Presidential system, without our input nor our consent.

I digress, the one party state, would be a "democracy", more democratic than we would have ever experienced in Fiji since independence.
It would be by its nature "issue" based politics.
It would by its nature "consensus" based.
It will require the prioritisation and allocation of funds, in essence -"politics".
And it would be less guarded than a guided democracy, with checks and balances in place, one being District Guardian Councils.
Ian Simpson, Taveuni said…

I made such a submission to the CC in two parts. Part One (one part state) was posted, part 2 (decentralised public service commissioners – district guardian councils) was not posted but which I forward to Dr. Walsh, who said he would post but has not done so. Dr. Walsh, may not be aware I have lived in Fiji all my life raising family and doing business. I have spent my life in Fiji (trying) getting services from government, watching abuse by civil and public servants that would make your toe nails curl. This all happens in our local communities with our full awareness but we are powerless to do anything about it because as you appreciate we have a central public service commission, far, far away, behind a forest of rules and regulations and powerful unions.

This present regime has not put one system in that is sustainable. The 50 army officers that have been moved into the civil service have become 50 more civil servants, after all they can't act outside of the law, and very quickly they find they don't have the money and pretty soon the moral to fight the system. Reform is in pockets and temporary and unsustainable without a “system” that puts the stick and carrot of accountability into the peoples hands who suffer under the all powerful autocracy of the civil service political class/empire that is ruthless and efficient in extracting and controlling resources of the nation. Why do you think the army has infiltrated this power base, it is more powerful than the army.

If anybody wishes to doubt me, lets take a little tour and conduct some interviews.

Dr Buchanan has invaluable insight and they are valid for our Fiji situation. If only we had this type of academic with real world experience in Fiji in our time of need. To late the hero.

I think it is safe to say, we in Fiji have missed the boat once more.

But don't mind me, all alone, sitting on my hobby horse which will soon enough morph into a rocking chair.

The sun is bright, the sky blue, the air is warm and the view magnificent.
Another day in Paradise.

Patriot said…
Even if it is a guarded democracy,.. it would be far better than what the corrupt democratic politicians had done earlier!! At least somebody had the guts to do something! I dont like the military but the idea of 'one man , one vote' is far better than what had happened before. Also the fear of the big stick would ensure that everyone works for the country and not for their selfish motives!
Crosbie Walsh said…
Ian. This must have been an oversight. It certainly wasn't deliberate. I'm sorry. I recall giving your one-party state submission some mention, and providing links to several submissions. Part II is still relevant. Please re-send and I'll post it next weekend. Kind regards, Croz
Get real said…
I would have thought the bullying cowardly dictator calling Father Barr 'a farked up priest' considerably abusive? But perhaps I judge an illegal human rights abusing junta differently from you? As for things improving? Get real - we can't even find out how much the illegal PM and illegal AG are being paid through Aunty Nur's company - I would humbly suggest transparency and accountability have all but disappeared?
Cin Cin said…

Are you implying that Fiji was a democracy pre-Bainimarama? Here I was thinking that you and Graham Davis believed that anything pre-dating the current regime was a) Not a democracy and b) was so corrupt it gave democracy a bad name. Fiji was always a democracy, in as much as the countries you have mentioned above are democracies. However, and like the above mentioned, it was flawed. Show me a system that isn't.

And as for the 'unequal electorates where votes were of unequal value', there was a very good reason for those electoral arrangements in the 1970 constitution. It was the product of compromise. The framers of the constitution had to meet the demands and fears of their constituents - that they managed to make it work until 1987 suggests it had something going for it.

Your line that somehow everything pre Bainimarama was bad and now we need to be saved is tired, and in fact it is starting to become offensive. At least I knew how my taxes were being spent under Qarase, even if I didnt agree with his politics.

Gatekeeper said…
@ Patriot

What went before was bad. What went before was linked to what goes on now,surely?One Man One Vote is 'sine qua non' of democratic suffrage. We did not have that before. Big Sticks should be applied to outside aggressors. Not to those who pay one: the taxpayers. If they are by definition 'terrorists', trading in cocaine, selling the patriomony out for generations, that IS another matter and relevant. Know the enemy. Is it within? Is it without? Or is it a stealthy combination of both? Fiji is not a private company despite the efforts of some to insist that it is and to act accordingly. Organised Crime is a private business and, Oh My, are they good at it.
Patriot said…
@ Gatekeeper

I believe power should be returned to the people. The point about the "big stick" I was trying to make was in reference to the legal infrastructure and laws being setup correctly so that there is more transparency and accountability for all office holders. The legal system was a mess with lawyers thinking they were above all others. The elites took advantage of everyone. The poor have always been taken advantage of! Now it is much more difficult. Look if the rules force a compromise then I am willing to accept the 'guarded democracy concept'. Yes the military may have helped themselves to the gov purse but they have also transferred a lot to the common people as well. Asking for accountability of tiny amounts is irrelevant to the future that is currently being created! In the future all will be held accountable but there needs to a "revolution" in the thinking of all the citizens. Time always makes people pay for their mistakes and realize what they cannot reverse. If the wise chiefs kept the coup genie locked, we would not be stuck with the current problems. They created something that can not be reversed. Grabbing power using the gun was effective in 1987 but the future generations have to deal with the problems since then. The genie now decides who is King. Sorry but the chiefs brought this onto themselves and the future generations. Guarded democracy seems a logical solution. Otherwise a set of non-negotiable principles would be best. And for those that think removing the military will work, I think they should remove all archaic chiefs first because it is here that the nationalist coup movement started. Th church must also understand its role. Otherwise, this coup cycle will continue because the genie has the power alone and it knows it. The days of god fearing and chief fearing has long gone. The gun is king now... hopefully it brings about positive change.
Anonymous said…
I think Paul Buchanan has hit the nail on the head. This is the best way forward for Fiji
Another failed dictatorship said…
Fiji is just becoming another failed dictatorship. Like the other dictatships in Africa and elsewhere - a dumping ground and a quarry.
%$#@! said…
'Guarded democracy' is like being half-raped. Always interesting to see 'commentators and journalists' quite prepared for others, like fijians, to tolerate living under such a regime but not quite prepared themselves to do the same. Almaost like the regime itself really!! These are the same journalists who so jealously guard their own rights and freedoms.
wati s said…
'Elites' like the ones currently in the military and their cronies who give themselves immunity and make up decrees to suit themselves!!??
Anonymous said…
the Elites like the ones who have use race to divide and rule the country; the elites who have taken benefits for themselves for decades and ignored ordinary Fijians
wati s said…
So the elites who take for themselves now and who are not accountable to any law and who gives themselves job and pay themselves secret5ly are all so different?? Na They're not in fact a lot of those people (politicians) you accuse, were also part of this regime at one stage, curious that. The current bunch of thugs and cronies do so luv their cars with flasdhing lights, bodyguards, expense accounts etc and also still yet, the oh so 'reformist!?' militray is still 99% i-taukei!! So they are not quite prepared to give their advantage up are they ??
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ %$#@! ...You are welcome to your opinion, of course but please acknowledge that others also have opinions, some of them very well informed. Dr Paul Buchanan is not a journalist. He is the principal of the highly respected 36th Parallel Assessments company that specialises in political analysis and commentary. Please also read what he actually wrote. He said he thought a guarded democracy was the most likely outcome and that is was likely to be a temporary phase. He did not say he approved of such an outcome.
complex issue said…
We should ask instead why the other races do not see the military as a career choice. Something to do with colonial policy of creating an itaukei warrior institution which would always protect itaukei chiefly leadership? It will take a long time to take that out of peoples minds. Maybe one day the GCC would have become racially balanced?!! The military has always been an indigenous institution and has been preserved to retain that identity by all previous governments.If you ;listen, the troops are always addressed in the vernacular. It will take generations to change that identity. Until then, the military will not be seen as a career choice for the other races and the young people will not even apply.

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