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Rabuka: Why We’re Losing Confidence In Supervisor of Elections, Electoral Commission

Rabuka: Why We’re Losing Confidence In Supervisor of Elections, Electoral Commission
SODELPA party leader Sitiveni Rabuka.
August 25
17:12 2018

Sitiveni Rabuka is Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and former Prime Minister. The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Sitiveni Rabuka and not of the Fiji Sun. This is Part One of his political views. Part Two continues next week.

Despite collective efforts by political parties to have genuine dialogue on issues critical to ensure free and fair elections in 2018, the Supervisor of Elections and Electoral Commission continue to be obstructive in response to our genuine concerns.

The leaders of six registered political parties [Freedom Alliance, Fiji Labour Party, National Federation Party (NFP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and Unity Fiji] issued the following Communique based on their collective concern on the preparations for the 2018 General Elections to ensure free and fair elections in 2018.

The communique emanates from the collective disappointment of Party Leaders on the attitude of both Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) and Supervisor of Elections (SOE) in response to genuine concerns, suggestions and recommendations made to ensure that there will be free, fair and credible elections in 2018.

Background

The Electoral Commission Chairman Suresh Chandra called for a meeting with all registered political parties on 9th August 2018 to discuss matters relating to the 2018 general election.

Prior to the meeting on August 9 2018, the six political parties have been collectively working together in the last 15 months making submissions to the Electoral Commission to address issues of concern to ensure the 2018 General Election is free, fair and credible.

Submissions by political parties were drawn from recommendations of the 2014 Report of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) and the 2014 Electoral Commission Annual Report on key recommendations to further improve the 2018 general election.

Our submission to the Commission on May 2017, is available online at http://bit.ly/fjElectoralRefomSubm

It is unfortunate that the Electoral Commission has downplayed issues raised in the submissions of 27th July 2018, 6th and 16th August 2018 considered critical to ensure free, fair and credible 2018 elections.

Issues Raised for Consideration

The following 19 issues and request for clarification were made to the Electoral Commission in late July and early August 2018 remain unanswered:

  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to confirm party polling agents will be shown ballot papers by Presiding Officers and Polling Day Officials during the counting of ballot papers and refusal to clarify whether Presiding Officers and Polling Day Workers will hold up and show each ballot paper to agents and observers during the count.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to explain the legal basis for Provisional Results Announcement.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to explain why Provisional Results are not broken down by Polling Station to enable verification by party polling agents.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to confirm that a print out by polling station of announced results during Provisional mode will be provided to party agents present at the National Result Centre.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to clarify the timeframe for lodging of disputes and the lack of a clear definition of “immediate”, “expedient” ie 10 minutes? 30 minutes? For the lodging of disputes where results from the National Result Centre differ from the results of the count at polling station as recorded in Protocol of Results pasted after the count at each polling station.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to give guidelines on electronic gadgets that may be taken into the National Results Centre by Party Polling Agents, specifically whether smartphones, tablets, wifi, laptops are allowed.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to approve the Political Parties request for second Result Management Information System (RMIS) Demonstration.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to confirm that the three witnesses for the Protocol of Results (POR) at each Polling Station must include a  Police officer and three polling agents and that the names and ID of these witnesses must be recorded on the POR.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Commission to approve or deny the Parties urgent request for a Logistics Workshop covering Warehouse operations, Hub operations, Transport of Ballot boxes from warehouse to hub to polling station then back to hubs and warehouse/national count center. SOE promised this workshop to party officials at a meeting in December 2017, but it has not been held to date.

The Electoral Commission Chairman says only when the date of elections are held can the workshop take place, however Parties requested this workshop asap so that we can train our polling agents who will observe ballot boxes from the warehouse to the hub, to polling stations to the FEO Warehouse and then the National result Centre.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

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