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A-G reveals party rules

January 16
07:50 2013

By TALEBULA KATE

Attorney-General and Minister for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during the announcing of the Political Parties Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosure Decree yesterday. Photo: RONALD KUMAR

Attorney-General and Minister for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday introduced the reforming terms and conditions in the new Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosure) Decree 2013.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this sets out the registration process and the goals to ensure that political parties are truly focused on national issues and to create transparency and accountability.
“This will create true democracy and the ordinary people having access to information that is critical for them to make a valid choice when going to the polling booths,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Key Elements of the decree
q Any organisation or group of individual that call themselves or hold themselves out to be a political party must register under this decree as in the case under the old law;
q There are 16 registered political parties under the old law. They are, from Friday, given 28 days to reregister themselves under this decree; and
q In registering or reregistering this decree they need to meet the various terms and conditions under the decree.
q If they don’t then they are deemed not to be a political party and there are obviously consequences if they continue to hold themselves to be a political.
“If you hold yourself out to be a political party and you’re not registered under this decree you commit an offence,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
Key elements of what needs to be put out in the application form
When applying to either reregister for existing political parties or forming a new political party which can be formed at any point in time but not later than 30 days before elections:
q Must set out the name of the proposed political party in the English language;
q Must set out the symbol of the proposed political party; the abbreviations and various acronyms that will be used;
q The proposed party needs to have five people who will be applicants to register the political party;
q The proposed party will need 5000 signed up members to be able to meet the criteria for registration. The 5000 members must have least 2000 from the Central Division, 1750 from the Western Division, 1000 from the Northern Division and 250 from the Eastern Division. These numbers are essentially in proportion to the total population that reside in these areas and the overall population;
q It must also include a registration fee of $5005 which basically boils down to $1 per person (five applicants and 5000 members); and
q Upon the application being received the registrar – who is the Permanent Secretary of Elections – will then assess it according to the criteria.
Once the registrar has made the assessment then the registrar will advertise in the media the names of the applicants and members of the registered political parties. If the registrar decides not to register a political party then those involved will need to appeal against the decision of the registrar and the appeal will be heard in the High Court.

Restrictions on public officers in a political party
q A public officer cannot be an applicant or a member of the proposed political party for the initial registration. The five applicants and 5000 members cannot be a public officer who is a member of statutory body, commission, board, judge or magistrate or holding an office in the public service including the police force or the corrections services or the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces. They cannot be an official of a trade union and at the same time hold a position of a political party; and
q Political parties are required to keep various records made available to the registrar and also to the public. These include a copy of the constitution, the register of its members, public policies and plans of the political party and also contributions and donations made to the political party.
Three key sources of the terms and conditions of the decree:
q The existing law in the previous act;
q The Kenyan model; and
q New South Wales and Canadian model

Funding and accounts of political parties
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the source of funds of a party shall only be from membership fees, voluntary contributions, donations and grants from a lawful source but not from a foreign government, inter governmental or nongovernmental organisations.
“This will also apply to independent candidates; they need also to make these declarations and adhere to the law,” he said.
“The amount of money that one can contribute as an individual to a political party cannot exceed $10,000. “Under this law also you cannot allow any company to donate money; no company can make a donation to a political party, its only individuals; it also disallows any other entity like a trade union movement to go and give donation to a political party.”

Declaration of assets and liabilities
The decree also sets out whether any person who will stand as an independent or for a candidate for a political party must also before elections declare their assets and liabilities and must be made known to the public.
“They must give the total assets whether they have in Fiji or abroad or anywhere else in the world, the total income, and any business connections, direct receipts, business transactions, gifts received other than what is normally acceptable,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
There are also three schedules attached to the decree for political parties to abide with and one is the Code of Conduct which was very much heavily borrowed from the Kenyan model and it sets out adherence in respecting, upholding and promoting the government’s integrity, transparency and accountability.
The second schedule sets out what should be some of the key contents in the constitution and the rules for a political party; this will clearly set out the eligibility criteria, membership feed and accountability within the political parties themselves.
The third schedule is the map of Fiji which sets out the various divisional boundaries.
A copy of the decree will be available this afternoon.

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