The country of Fiji has the institutional framework of a democracy; however, it does not function as such. Despite safeguards that have been implemented in an attempt to ease conflict, Fiji has witnessed several coups in recent years. This reality makes Fiji an extremely interesting country to study as it provides an example of a nation struggling to adapt to the Western norm of democracy.
Fijiʼs location in the Pacific Ocean makes for an interesting dynamic regarding international influence. Many nations, including China and the United States, view it strategically as an important economic partner as well as being of use militarily. Looking ahead, the question of whether Fiji aligns itself more with traditional “western” international partners or continues to looks elsewhere, such as China, will be of great consequence.
The Fijian military has a clear presence in political and economic discourse within the region. Fiji, at least economically, benefits from this military enterprise, which continues to bring in wealth from outside its borders. However, surrounding states, though similar in size, contain no standing army, which makes Fiji a unique exception in the area. Notwithstanding its benefits, the military seems to be entrenched with racial and ethnic discrimination toward the Indo-Fijians. And lastly, given that the RFMF is the strongest unit within Fiji, the apparent ethnic oppression continues to aggrandize the historical differences that have persistently plagued Fiji in the past.
Ethnic tension between Indo-Fijians and Ethnic Fijians originates with the British Colonial practices, in which indentured Indian workers were brought to the Island to work on sugar cane plantations. Indo-Fijians have since been viewed as second-class citizens by Ethnic Fijians and have been barred from political participation and land ownership. Indo – Fijians see themselves as equals to Ethnic Fijians, while Ethnic Fijians view Indo-Fijians as interfering visitors on their land, which have been handed down along tribal lines for generations. These ethnic tensions and inequalities between both ethnicity have driven multiple coup’s in Fiji and remain an important obstacle to democratization in the country.