Election Marks New Beginning For A Future

Pre-polling began yesterday, marking the start of the first general election since 2006. While September 17 has been set as Election Day, this is a historic election for several reasons.
04 Sep 2014 08:33

Pre-polling began yesterday, marking the start of the first general election since 2006. While September 17 has been set as Election Day, this is a historic election for several reasons.

It’s the first truly democratic election. Millions of dollars are being spent to ensure that it happens and it’s credible.

It is the first time that people will not vote on racial lines.

There is only  one constituency and registered voters have one vote. Before, voters voted for a common roll candidate and a national roll candidate.

One-day polling and pre-polling are new. Before, it used to take about a week.

The voting age has been reduced from 21 to 18, opening the door for more young people to vote. The people have the power to ensure that any new laws passed by Parliament  must be approved by them in a national referendum, not by a simple majority but by 75 per cent of the votes before they can be enacted.

The high level of scrutiny is part of the checks and balances in the Constitition that are essential for an enduring democracy.

This election therefore brings to life those famous words by the first president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

While examining the founding principles of the United States, and representative democracy, Mr Lincoln gave this assurance: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Those who have registered to vote in this election must cherish this moment in history and cast their vote. More than 8000 were expected to vote yesterday at the opening of pre-polling in various centres around Fiji. No figures were available about the actual turnout figures. However, preliminary reports showed that the turnout was good and people were happy to be voting in this election.

After months of waiting, during which there was a lot of debate about electoral laws and rules, it’s finally here. The Fijian Elections Office and the Electoral Commission deserve recognition for the huge work they have accomplished within a short period of time. They had to start from scratch because there was no previous template to work on. Since this will be the first election conducted with one national constituency and one vote, it requires a new template.

Because it is a new system and it’s being tried out, there could be hiccups and also complaints. It would be interesting to see how voters handle the numbering system for candidates.

Obviously, there will be a review when this election is over to see what can be done to ensure that future elections are more voter friendly.

Everything has been done to ensure  that those eligible to vote are registered and they are able to vote. The exercise now is to find out which aspects of the operation needs tweaking or improving. Voter turnout depends on several factors like the weather and transport. While we have no control of the weather, it is great to know that public transport will run as normal, ensuring that transport to the polling venues is available.

While voting is not compulsory, registered voters must make the effort to vote because they will influence the path the new Fiji will take. The country has survived four military coups, costing the nation million of dollars and shattered lives. This election spells a new beginning, a new opportunity to make amends, to leave behind the dark days of the past and to look to a new future with hope and excitement.



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