NATION

Poll Operations Bill Debate to be Fast Tracked Tomorrow: A-G

A Bill that will deal with the operational aspects of the next general elections is expected to be debated and fast tracked in Parliament tomorrow. The Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, while
08 Feb 2017 14:37
Poll Operations Bill Debate to be Fast Tracked Tomorrow: A-G
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum outside Parliament yesterday. Photo: Paulini Ratulailai

A Bill that will deal with the operational aspects of the next general elections is expected to be debated and fast tracked in Parliament tomorrow.

The Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, while moving the motion on Monday, said the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2017 would be considered by Parliament without delay, pass through one stage in a single sitting of Parliament, must not be referred to a Standing Committee or other Committee in Parliament.

He said it must be debated in Parliament on Thursday (9th February 2017) but one hour to be given to debate the Bill with the right of reply given to him as the member moving the motion.

He said Fiji saw one of the highest turnouts of voters during the 2014 general elections.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it also recorded the lowest number of invalid votes in Fiji’s electoral history.

He said the Fijian Elections Office was committed to continuously improve standards and practices, and carry out a review in the existing electoral laws.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Fijian Elections Office had an expert from Australia who worked with them in identifying and improving procedures in light of the challenges faced in the 2014 general elections.

He reminded Members of Parliament that the clock would start ticking on April 6, next year.

“As stipulated in the Constitution, the Government must serve at least three and a half years, but no more than four years. That three and half years end on 5th April, 2018,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said the next general elections was expected to be held between April 6and September 6, 2018.

“That’s the window of opportunity for the Elections, so therefore we are only a little over one year away from the possible date of an election,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said it was important that rules of procedure be put in place extremely quickly.

“So all the parties not only political parties but stakeholders, voters, civil society and NGOs are fully aware about what the rules will be and indeed the voters themselves,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

As the result of the review and recommendations, he said the Bill had to do with the operational aspects of the elections.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there was a need to streamline provisions and also it considered recommendations made by the Multi-National Observer Group.

He said the recommendations were:

ν Fiji review and finalise its existing electoral laws well in advance of the next general elections;

ν The division of responsibilities between the electoral commission and the Fijian Elections  Office should be clarified;

ν The rules regarding the use of paper in polling stations should be clarified.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said previously no materials were allowed inside the polling stations.

He said the amendment gave discretion to the Fijian Elections Office.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Bill was aimed to do with elections procedures and processes that didn’t make any substantive changes to the Act.

He said the only substantive changes had to do with numbers.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said every MP had a number that was assigned to it and picked randomly.

“Of course, the number 297, the number 279, all these numbers are affixed to individuals,” he said.

For example, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said if MPs in the next elections had the same set of numbers being used, people would still identify those numbers with the previous candidates.

“So what the amendments seek to do is give the Fijian Elections Office the opportunity to use another set of numbers for the next elections and they can use another set after that and come back perhaps this one that we had in 2014 after a period of time,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said as long the numbers were in three digits.

“Otherwise you know we don’t want people who may think that they are voting for Honourable Prasad to be voting for someone else or vice versa, whatever the case maybe,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it would provide clarity and transparency within the elections process.

Opposition MP Biman Prasad said the Bill needed to be put for public consultations.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said another example of an amendment made to the Bill, was that polling booth and polling booths would be called voting screens and voter screens.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  arieta.vakasukawaqa@fijisun.com.fj

Fijisun E-edition
Total Excellium
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper