Fiji has a new constitution. Among the provisions is a new electoral system that will consist of a single nationwide district of fifty seats, using “open-list” proportional representation (OLPR).
By my reading of Art. 53 of the constitution, ((I thank Jon Fraenkel of the Victoria University, Wellington, for sending me a copy.)) it is not clearly open list, in the proper sense of the rank-order of candidates being determined solely by individual preference votes. Yes, it says “open list”:
53.—(1) The election of members of Parliament is by a multi-member open list system of proportional representation…
However, it does not go on to define what this means. A variant of the “flexible” (or semi-open) list system would meet the plain wording of the text. It seems to require that voters give a preference vote:
the total number of votes cast for each political party contesting the election, which shall be determined by totalling the number of votes cast for each candidate of that political party;
However, that does not preclude its being what I call (in my chapter in Gallagher and Mitchell, The Politics of Electoral Systems) a latent list, as in the Netherlands and Estonia. These are both variants of flexible list that require individual preference votes yet still have a fixed order that is overcome only by candidates who obtain some quota of preference votes.
If it really is an open list, Fiji will join Colombia as perhaps the only country to use such a system in a single nationwide district. There it is used in this manner for the Senate only (M=100); the House of Representatives is open list, but districted. ((Actually, in Colombia, parties may present either closed or open lists. Most have chosen open. See Pachon and Shugart in Electoral Studies, 2010.)) There are other cases of OLPR in districts at least as large as Fiji’s, including the Sao Paulo district for Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies (M=70) and the statewide districts several Brazilian state legislative assemblies (one of which has a magnitude of 120, I believe). But Fiji’s single district would be larger than the largest district in Finland (M=34, currently). OLPR in such large districts is problematic because of the overwhelming choice of candidates and challenges of clear ballot design. ((Brazil uses all electronic voting in recent elections.))
If it is flexible (latent) list, it would join Netherlands and Slovakia (both M=150) as cases of nationwide application. However, in the Netherlands, choice and complexity are somewhat reduced by the use of nominating sub-districts.
In any case, Fiji will be an interesting addition to the set of very high-magnitude preference-vote systems.
There will also be a 5% threshold for a list to obtain representation.