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Political forces
Feb 15th 2005
From the Economist Intelligence Unit
Source: Country ViewsWire


The constitution


Country ViewsWire 
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The constitution is largely unwritten and is a mixture of statutes and constitutional convention. The founding charter of New Zealand’s constitution is generally considered to be the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, under which indigenous Maori tribes exchanged their claims of sovereignty for guarantees of continued resource use and recognition as British subjects. The Constitution Act 1986 brought together a number of rules and pieces of constitutional legislation dating back to 1852, which define the role of the sovereign, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

There is no single legal document that gives the judiciary extensive power to place limits on the actions of parliament, although the 1990 New Zealand Bill of Rights Act allows some judicial review of executive action. The bill protects the freedoms of speech, assembly and religious observance and freedom from discrimination, as well as guaranteeing the right to a fair trial and other principles of criminal procedure. However, the rights and freedoms stated in the act are not absolute, as the bill can be overturned by a simple majority in parliament.


The governor-general

The main constitutional function of the governor-general is to arrange for the leader of the majority political party to form a government. Under constitutional convention, the governor-general acts on the advice of ministers who have majority support in parliament.


The executive and legislature

Under the Constitution Act 1986, parliament legally consists of the sovereign and a unicameral legislative chamber, the House of Representatives. However, the sovereign’s approval of statutes is, by constitutional convention, a formality. The House of Representatives is elected by universal adult suffrage for a maximum term of three years. The October 1996 election was the first to be held using the MMP electoral system, which replaced the first-past-the-post system. Under MMP there is usually a 120-seat parliament; an extra seat can sometimes be added to ensure truly proportional representation. Of the total number of seats, 65 electorate (directly elected constituency) seats are contested on the old first-past-the-post basis, including seven seats reserved for the indigenous Maori people. The remaining 55 or so seats are allocated so that representation in parliament reflects overall support for each party (the party vote). Under the MMP system, a party has either to win a constituency seat or more than 5% of the total party vote in order to gain representation in parliament. The government can continue to rule only if it retains majority support in the House of Representatives, or can secure the support of other political parties to give it a majority to pass legislation and survive parliamentary confidence votes.

The highest policymaking body in the government is the cabinet, drawn from members of the government and presided over by the prime minister. The cabinet currently consists of 20 ministers, with Jim Anderton of the Progressive Coalition the only non-Labour cabinet minister. Shortly after the 2002 election, Ms Clark expanded the executive to 28 by creating several non-cabinet posts, a move criticised by opposition parties.


The judiciary

The judiciary is responsible for the interpretation and enforcement of laws. Its constitutional independence from the influence of other branches of government is maintained by non-political appointments and strict rules protecting tenure in office. A Supreme Court was formed in early 2004 to replace the former system of appeals to the Privy Council in London; the Supreme Court began hearing cases in July.




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FROM THE WEB
Fiji caretaker PM confident of winning
(NewKerala.com) May 14th 2006 13:09 GMT

Fiji caretaker PM confident of winning
(Daily India) May 14th 2006 11:57 GMT

Tight security after Fiji election
(Xinhua News Agency) May 14th 2006 11:51 GMT

Fiji counting centres ready
(ABC Asia Pacific) May 14th 2006 11:41 GMT



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