Fiji Electoral Commission Accepted, Acted Upon Half Of Recommendations From 2014 Observers

Commission rejects 10 out of 38 recommendations, doesn't have jurisdiction over 9

By Mere Naleba

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 28, 2017) – Of the 38 recommendations made to the Fijian Electoral Commission by the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) after the 2014 General Election, the commission has accepted and actioned 19, rejected 10 and does not have jurisdiction over nine.

This was confirmed by commission chairman Suresh Chandra yesterday to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights chaired by parliamentarian Ashneel Sudhakar.

Mr Chandra said of the 19 recommendations accepted, Parliament through the work of the commission and Fijian Elections Office had actioned the following:

1. The amendment of the Electoral Act in February, this year clarifying the role of Supervisor of Elections (SoE) and the Commission, establishing that both organisations have to work together to deliver the 2018 elections. And that the SoE is bound by all decisions of the Commission.

2. The Commission will publish a calendar of events and key dates for the next General Elections.

3. The amendment of the Public Order Act 2012 by Parliament to allow political parties to conduct meetings without the need for a permit.

4. The amendment of the Electoral Act clarifying that political agents and observers can take materials approved by SoE inside the polling stations.

5. The Commission will publish a handbook outlining the roles, responsibilities and restrictions for polling agents and observers. This handbook will be used by polling agents and the media.

6. The amendment of the Electoral Act will allow the SoE to distribute postal ballots by the best practice means. This step will allow voters in rural areas to receive ballots well in time. (The Commission has developed an alternative solution to that of the recommendation by the MOG)

7. The printing and display of the National Register of Voters is now an annual exercise aimed at enhancing sense of citizen ownership of the register. The Commission has approved rules that will allow a voter to object to the registration of another voter.

8. The awareness and outreach programs from the FEO will be intensified as Fiji approaches the 2018 General Elections. A more direct and face to face awareness program will be undertaken from January 15, 2018 to April 15.

9. The FEO has secured the services of Yvonne Gouldie, an electoral expert, to develop the Secondary School Electoral Awareness Curriculum. The curriculum should be ready in schools by next year at latest.

10. In March next year, a call centre will be established, voters needing assistance regarding polling venues can receive help from this call centre.

11. The FEO has launched its first edition of the Polling Venue directories.

12. Exact timing of pre-polling times can be communicated to voters once the areas of pre-polling is established.

13. A detailed polling agents handbook will also be available containing detailed explanation of the process of voting, counting and results transmission.

14. Elections officials will be trained in phases for the next year's General Elections, a refresher program will be organised following the announcement of the election date.

15. The counting process has been adjusted to allow staff greater convenience in undertaking this important role. Those involved in the counting of ballot papers is only limited to 500 number of voters. The reconciliation book and the protocol results book has been modified to allow ease of use.

16. The training manuals have been prepared keeping in mind that observers and agents must be allowed to remain inside the polling station throughout the whole process.

Mr Chand said the recommendations have been accepted and acted upon in a progressive manner.

The commission has rejected the following recommendations by the MOG:

1. The polling process in Fiji will not be changed for the next election, because it is one of the simplest in the world.

2. The MOG has made an inaccurate observation regarding section 115 of the Electoral Decree. Which states following the announcement of the date of election, it will unlawful for any person, entity or organisation that receives funding or assistance from a foreign government, inter-governmental or NGO to engage, participate in or conduct any campaign that is related to the elections or any elections issue or matter, this does not prevent university from organising inclusive public forums or panel discussions that are related to the election.

Mr Chandra said the commission noted from file records that all reasons for rejection of applications under s115 were properly given, and therefore MOG has made an inaccurate observation

3. The recommendation to have more than one form of the National Candidates List is rejected.

4. The commission notes that the courts will apply penalties proportionately based on the aggravating factors as well as mitigating factors.

5. The commission notes that despite Fiji being a single constituency, it is necessary for political parties to have a national reach and approach in terms of their formation and policy.

6. It is unreasonable to have a very lengthy post writ period. The commission believes this time around political parties will be more prepared to campaign in numbers.

7. MIDA is a statutory body and the High Court has oversight of the activities of MIDA. No further changes are required in this framework.

8. The commission believes it is unnecessary to make semantic changes to the electoral system from one election to the next.

Mr Chand said the commission does not have jurisdiction over recommendations 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 17, 26, 27 and 38 and prefers that Parliament deals with the mentioned recommendations at its discretion.

Fiji Times Online.
Copyright © 2017 Fiji Times Online. All Rights Reserved

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