FIJI VOTING SYSTEM CRITICIZED

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By Mithleshni Gurdayal

SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 4, 1998 - Wansolwara/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Many Fiji Islanders are confused or lack understanding of the country's new electoral system with the next election less than six months away, reports Wansolwara.

This has been shown by a spot survey conducted by Wansolwara in Nasinu, a suburb outside Suva.

Two hundred families were selected at random and interviewed about their understanding of the new voting system.

Only 48 families fully understood the system, according to the survey.

The remaining 152 families face difficulties understanding the system.

One person interviewed, 42-year-old Hari Ram, said the new system was very confusing and too complex to understand.

"Just by watching TV adverts and listening to adverts on radio would not teach us how to prepare ourselves for voting in the general election," Mr. Ram said.

Another person interviewed, Robert Singh at Six Miles in Nasinu, complained about the way "numerators" were registering people for the elections.

A group of Fiji students at the University of the South Pacific, who will be voting for the first time, were also interviewed. They knew little about the "alternative" voting system.

The Supervisor of Elections, Walter Rigamoto, said he strongly believed the success of the elections depended on how well-informed people were.

"It is our duty to educate the people about the election," he said. "I think we are doing our best to do that."

Mr. Rigamoto said that about F$800,000 had already been spent by the Government on creating public awareness. More money was needed to continue with the awareness program.

"We are using media campaigns to reach as many people as possible," said Mr. Rigamoto.

Nasinu resident Mr. Ram said he had taken part in elections at least four times during his life and said he was very familiar with the old system.

"I am so used to just placing a tick on the ballot paper that I know I'll find a problem with this new voting system," Mr. Ram said.

The new voting system is known as the alternative vote (AV) and requires voters to express preferences on communal and open seats, and includes compulsory voting and registration.

In both communal and open seats, voters will rank candidates between most favored and least favored.

About 20 USP students voting for the first time said they knew little about the new system.

Rusila, 21, a Bachelor of Science student at USP, said she felt excited about participating for the first time in the election -- but she understood little about it.

"The media campaigns run by the Elections Office are just not comprehensive enough to teach us how to vote," she said.

She said most people in USP needed to be further educated on the system.

"We need to be educated about the seats -- communal and open -- constituency boundaries and other issues about the new Constitution," she said.

Brochures, TV advertisements, radio advertisements and newspaper liftouts are part of the electoral education campaign being carried out by the Elections Office.

Title -- 1794 POLITICS: Fiji voting system criticized Date -- 4 November 1998 Byline -- Mithleshni Gurdayal Origin -- niusedita@pactok.net.au" target="_blank">niusedita@pactok.net.au Source -- Wansolwara (Journalism USP newspaper), Nov 98 issue Copyright -- Journalism USP Status -- Abridged This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius: niusedita@pactok.net.au" target="_blank">niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/

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