Misinformation Still Spreading

(University of the South Pacific Emeritus Professor Crosbie Walsh publishes the respected blog, Fiji The Way It Was, Is and Can Be. He pioneered development studies in New Zealand and
04 Sep 2014 11:13
Misinformation Still Spreading

(University of the South Pacific Emeritus Professor Crosbie Walsh publishes the respected blog, Fiji The Way It Was, Is and Can Be. He pioneered development studies in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and has been both an academic and a journalist.)

Crozbie With only twelve days left before the elections, one might have thought the political parties would be in top gear promoting their policies and berating the policies of their opponents.

Some have, and some haven’t and some are still berating the system, a useful fallback strategy if their electoral dreams go pear-shaped.


One serious electoral concern is the possible abuse of postal voting The military will deliver voting papers to the personnel overseas while other postal voters will receive their mail individually.

One inspired person on FijiToday describes whats he calls the Zimbabwe Electoral Fraud Method in which a large number of voters are created, and voting papers are forged, all ticking FijiFirst,  for those who did not vote on time.

I see nothing wrong with the bulk delivery of military voting papers and, from what I’ve read, postal votes received are overseen by the police and observers will see them put in the ballot box.

There’s always a possibility of fraud (think back to the extra ballot papers used, a whole box of votes missing and more Lau votes received than voters at the last election) but the checks in place this election should minimise the risk.

A more serious issue is the confusion over pre-polling which opened yesterday.  Pre-polling is for those otherwise engaged on election day and for voters living in remote areas such as the outer islands and the interior highlands of the two main islands.

Between 50-60,000 of the 591,083 people registered to vote are expected to pre-poll in one of 547 special pre-poll venues.

The trouble is that with the late publication of polling venues political parties will have only limited time to canvass, and with some pre-poll centres open for only one day as, for example, the ship with election officers pass from island to island,  some voters may not be aware that it is their day to vote.

The Electoral Office says there should be no concern on this count because turaga ni koro and other officials in the remote areas have been adequately forewarned. I shall have more to say on pre-polling later in the week.

What is obvious now, though, is that a lot of misinformation is being spread, directly by rumour and some politicians, and in the internet.

Wadan Narsey

Wadan Narsey


Some of the petty objections spread by Mike Beddoes are cases in point, and later in the week I’ll comment on the recent one hour interview he gave with FBC but for now he’s criticizing voters being  given two ballot papers in case they spoil one, saying  “the commission is introducing the prospect of some people slipping in two votes if officials are not vigilant. Postal Ballot voters are given just one ballot paper, which means this is another unfair treatment of voters”.

Mike, voters will be able to ask for a second paper if they make an error.  They are not given two papers. And online voters have been informed they can correct their entry as long as their intention is clear.

Mick, you also forget to mention that a tick, cross or circle is acceptable in this election.  The singular tick option in the last election contributed to nearly ten percent of the papers being declared invalid.

Mick also says the Electoral Commission is breaking the law by including candidate photos in the instruction booklet that accompanies the online ballot paper whereas those voting directly on September 17  can’t have photos in their booth as they are voting,   Come on, Mick. They don’t need it.

The photos will have been in the media for weeks, individual candidates are pushing their numbers, political parties as they canvass are telling their supporters who to vote for, and at the polling station voters can  if they are in any doubt. The photos are also shown at the polling stations. (See Election Office video with QR code with this report.)  Online voters do not have these advantages.


Another example, is a posting by Dr Wadan Narsey on his blog (and copied by several anti-Bainimarama blogs) that Bainimrama will “hand out places on the FF party list which will determine who on his list will actually get a seat in parliament  … So he has to give a number of higher places to Indo-Fijians or his government will look like his officer’s mess at QEB, a mono-ethnic sham … The candidates will understand that their chances of winning will depend on when they get their invite and where they are on Frank’s (well we all know it will be Sayed-Khaiyum’s) list.”

Wadan must know this accusation is not true.  The Open List system, as spelt out in the 2013 Constitution,  leaves voters to decide the order in which parties select their MPs.

The more people who vote for them, the better their chance of selection.  It has nothing  to do with Bainimarama or Sayed-Khaiyum. The parties have to accept the order voted for by the people.


Mick-BeddoesTwo PDP candidates have said they are ignoring the polls, and so they might with Bainimarama and FijiFirst so far in front.

NFP president Tupou Draunidalo says they are not taking the polls seriously. Having campaigned well around the country she knows firsthand the views of the people on NFP.

“Those polls I am told are conducted at bus stops – so I don’t know whether it is the polls conducted by the driver of the bus that is driving the FijiFirst bus …If it stopped in front of me and asked me and I felt intimidated – I would say ‘yeah I will vote for your party … In this climate no one is going to say freely whom they will vote for.”

FLP’s Dr Rohit Kishore said polls conducted overseas have not always been right … “so I don’t think we put much thought on these polls.”

The  latest FijiSun Razor poll for the week ending 23 August put FijiFirst support at 70%, down from 74% the previous week, and SODELPA support at 21%, up from 14%. FLP was up 1% to 2%,  and NFP down to 6% from 8%.

The margin of error for a poll of this size is 4%, so weekly variations do not necessarily indicate trends, and the smaller parties may be lucky to pass the 5% threshold needed by parties to put members in parliament.


Steve Ratuva and I contributed to an article in Pacific Scoop. It is a credible effort by the student journalist dealing with a complex situation though he did not use my comparisons with earlier elections, when one person most certainly did not equal one value, but perhaps he will use this information in his future articles on the election.

A good effort, Thom.



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