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Fiji's Parliament is bicameral. The House of Representatives has 71 members. 25 of these are elected by universal suffrage. The remaining 46 are reserved for Fiji's ethnic communities and are elected from communal electoral rolls: 23 Fijians, 19 Indo-Fijians, 1 Rotuman, and 3 "General electors" (Europeans, Chinese, and other minorities). The upper chamber of the parliament, the Senate, has 32 members, formally appointed by the President on the nomination of the Great Council of Chiefs (14), the Prime Minister (9), the Leader of the Opposition (8), and the Rotuman Islands Council (1). The Senate is less powerful than the House of Representatives; the Senate may not initiate legislation, but it may reject or amend it.

The Senate's powers over financial bills are more restricted: it may veto them in their entirety, but may not amend them. The House of Representatives may override a Senatorial veto by passing the bill a second time in the parliamentary session immediately following the one in which it was rejected by the Senate, after a minimum period of six months. Amendments to the Constitution are excepted: the veto of the Senate is absolute. Following the passage of a bill by the House of Representatives, the Senate has 21 days (7 days in the case of a bill classified as "urgent") to approve, amend, or reject it; if at the expiry of that period the Senate has done nothing about it, it is deemed to have passed the bill.

An anomaly that has arisen, as a result of the new parliament building having only one debating chamber, is that the Senate and House of Representatives use the same chamber at different times.

Parliamentary history

The Fiji parliament building. This November 2000 photo shows the grave of a rebel involved in that year's hostage crisis

The Fijian Parliament dates from 10 October 1970, when Fiji became independent from the United Kingdom. The Parliament replaced the former colonial legislative body, the Legislative Council, which had existed in various forms throughout the entire colonial period. A grandfather clause in the 1970 Constitution, which was adopted on independence, provided for the old Legislative Council to be renamed as the House of Representatives and remain in office, pending the first post-independence elections in 1972.

Since independence, Parliamentary rule has been interrupted twice. The first interruption was from 1987 through 1992, owing to two coups d'état instigated by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka. The second interruption was in 2000, when a coup attempted by George Speight rendered the parliamentary system unworkable and resulted in Parliament's dissolution. A general election in 2001 restored the democratic system.

The composition of Parliament has changed over the years. From 1972 to 1987, there were 52 Representatives and 22 Senators. In 1992, Parliament was enlarged to 70 Representatives and 34 Senators, figures marginally adjusted in 1999 to provide for 71 Representatives and 32 Senators.

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