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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Political Science
Title Resolving conflict in bipolar societies The fate of political settlements in Fiji and Northern Ireland
Volume 66
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Page numbers 23-45
URL https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jon_Fraenkel/publication/275861651_Resolving_conflict_in_bipola​r_societies_The_fate_of_political_settlements_in_Fiji_and_Northern_Ireland/links/562f716308aeb2ca696​20b31.pdf
Ethnically divided societies that might be described as ‘balanced bicommunal’ (where there are two
communities, each of which comes close to representing half of the population) pose a particular
challenge to conventional principles of collective decision-making, and commonly threaten political
stability. This article analyses the experience of two such societies – Northern Ireland and Fiji –
with a view to exploring whether there are common processes in the route by which political stability
has been pursued. We assess the manner in which a distinctive relationship with Great Britain
and its political culture has interacted with local conditions to produce a highly competitive, bipolar
party system. This leads to consideration of the devices that have been adopted in an effort to
bridge the gap between the communities: the Fiji constitution as amended in 1997, and Northern
Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement of 1998. We focus, in particular, on the use of unusual (preferential
voting) formulas for the election of parliamentarians and of an inclusive principle in the selection
of ministers, and consider the contribution of these institutional devices to the attainment of
political stability. We find that, in both cases, the intervention of forces from outside the political
system had a decisive impact, though in very different ways. In addition to being underpinned by
solid institutional design, for political settlements to work effectively, some minimal level of trust
between rival elites is required.

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