Opinion

Opinion: We Must Protect Democracy, Says Unity Fiji Party Leader

A dishonest election will make a mockery of our efforts to maintain and protect our democracy, party leader Savenaca Narube adds. UNITY FIJI PARTY LEADER The views and opinions expressed
17 Mar 2018 13:08
Opinion: We Must Protect Democracy, Says Unity Fiji Party Leader
From left: Unity Fiji party secretary Satish Kumar, president Adi Sivia Qoro, and Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube.

A dishonest election will make a mockery of our efforts to maintain and protect our democracy, party leader Savenaca Narube adds.

UNITY FIJI PARTY LEADER

The views and opinions expressed in the statement below are entirely those of Savenaca Narube and not the Fiji Sun.

A free and fair elections is the cornerstone of democracy. If we championed true de­mocracy we must reduce the risks of a dishonest election. A dishonest election will make a mockery of our efforts to maintain and protect our democracy.

In my view, the main objective of the Electoral Commission (EC) is to ensure that the elections are free and fair. It sets the rules of the elec­tions.

The role of the Supervisor of Elec­tions (SOE) is to conduct the elec­tions in compliance with the rules set by the EC. The EC and the SOE must be independent from one an­other but the SOE is the Secretary of the EC and both should be inde­pendent of the Minister for Elec­tions.

It is therefore hard to accept that the Electoral Commission is truly independent when it’s members are appointment by the Constitutional Offices Commission, which is also chaired by the Prime Minister and FijiFirst party leader, Voreqe Baini­marama.

Even with Section 132 (1) of the 2013 Constitution requiring that the Leader of the Opposition and an­other nominee sit on the Commis­sion, they are still out-numbered by the Chairman, the A-G and two additional Government nominees.

We also share the recent concerns raised by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein during his recent mission to Fiji last month when he aired his concerns about what he described as a “basic struc­tural flaw that brings into question whether these bodies are truly au­tonomous”.

Based on the observations of the 2014 general elections, the politi­cal parties currently not in gov­ernment had made several sub­missions to the EC on reducing the risks of a rigged elections and removing the conflict of interests between the EC, the SOE and the Minister responsible for Elections.

Unfortunately, the EC has knocked back the sub­missions made to it to reduce the risks of a rigged elec­tions. Let me mention a few.

One was that the number of pre-polling be reduced to essential services only that are required for duty on the national polling day. Pre-polling multiplies the risks to the integrity of the ballot boxes that are kept for two weeks before counting. Howev­er, instead of reducing the number of people who will vote on pre-poll­ing, the EC has decided to increase it in this year’s elections. Strangely,

I am informed that some villages have been identified for pre-polling while others close by have not.

Another major weakness identi­fied in the 2014 elections was the absence of serial numbers on the ballot papers.

This numbering reconciles the ballot papers that are used to those that are printed and those that were unused. It’s a natural de­fence against rigging. It does not cost anything to print these numbers. Yet, the SOE has refused to number the ballot papers. His reason was that it might reveal the votes of individuals. This is ludicrous. There are obvious ways to number the ballot papers and yet protect the confidentiality of the voter’s choice.

The other issue is the reconcili­ation of the count at the polling stations to the official count at the count centre. In the last elections, the results of the count at the poll­ing stations were transmitted by phone to the count centre. The of­ficials at the polling stations were not required to reconcile what they counted and what was entered at the official count. Hence, there was no reconciliation. Who knows that the count at the count centre may well be very different from those at the polling stations?

Finally, we are all concerned about the integrity of the computer sys­tem being used at the count centre to tally the votes.

Opposition parties have asked that an independent auditor be allowed to audit this system. This is a rea­sonable thing to ask for. But again, this has been rejected by the SOE.

The above does not give any com­fort to the voters that their votes will be better protected in this elec­tion. It clearly signifies that the EC, FEO and Government do not want to reduce the risks of a rigged elec­tions.

I ask the people to voice their de­mand in the clearest terms possi­ble through social media, letters to the editor and direct emails that Government reduces these risks urgently. Because at the end of the day, it is our democracy at stake.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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