#Vote2018 | NEWS

Vote2018: Narube – ‘Our Election Processes Compromise Democracy’

Savenaca Narube is party leader of Unity Fiji. He is the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji and former Permanent Secretary for Finance. The views and opinions expressed
06 Oct 2018 14:22
Vote2018: Narube – ‘Our Election Processes Compromise Democracy’
  • Savenaca Narube is party leader of Unity Fiji. He is the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji and former Permanent Secretary for Finance. The views and opinions expressed here in the article are those of Savenaca Narube and not of the Fiji Sun.

At last, with horns and trumpets, the 2018 election writ was proclaimed.

For many of us that have been kept in the dark, this announcement was welcomed but an anticlimax.

As the elections were being pushed back, we knew the boundary of the law and predicted that the date for the election cannot be any later than mid-November.

However, the nation has been unfairly kept guessing from as early as May this year. As a fair and just government, Unity Fiji will not allow this to happen again.

Like all opposition parties, our Unity Fiji office has been a hive of activity since the first day of October.

Our priority now is to finalise the nomination list of candidates which we aim to submit to the Fijian Elections Office next week. Unfortunately, the forms that each candidate needs to complete are not simple.

We are stressing to our candidates that they must fill their declaration of income, assets and liabilities, which cover their spouses and dependent children, with care.

To make it worse, candidates need to update these figures to 1st October. This is unreasonable. Like many things that this government has done, Fiji has imported policies from advanced economies without applying the local context.

Unity Fiji will simplify and remove some of these requirements to facilitate the rights of people to contest the elections.

Each candidate must pay a non-refundable levy of $1,000 to the Fiji Elections Office.

While this is a universal requirement, the amount is too high considering the average income of the population is only $600 per month. It seriously diminishes the right of an ordinary citizen to stand for Parliament.

Unity Fiji will reduce the candidate levy to $500.

As we know, there is only one national constituency. In addition, each candidate will be allotted a number that starts from 508. The ballot papers will have no picture, no name, no party symbol, only numbers which can be as many as 350 if all seven parties field the maximum of 51 candidates.

Again, this complex numbering system is inappropriate. It is not even used in many developed countries. Why have we, a poor and developing country, adopted it?

This system greatly compromises the right of a voter to correctly elect his or her chosen candidates. It is therefore unjust. Unity Fiji will restore constituencies and include names and symbols in the ballot papers.

Unity Fiji’s office is grappling with the means of disseminating the candidates’ numbers in such a short time.

The numbers will be allotted on 19th October. This means that we will have less than three weeks to publicise these numbers to our supporters.

This is too short and penalises new parties that have yet to fully establish their campaign network around the country.

But we have a plan up our sleeves to do this effectively. Unity Fiji will amend the law to allow a fair and reasonable time for all parties to campaign.

Most seriously, the Ministers will remain in executive power through the elections until a new government is formed.

There is broad consensus that this is unfair and dangerous because the Ministers can make decisions that may influence the votes and the elections.

According to the law, campaign materials will need to come down a few days before the elections. In addition, candidates, after voting, are not allowed within 300 metres of the polling venue on election day.

These steps are aimed at avoiding undue influence on voters. Yet we have Ministers that can make decisions that influence voters right through the elections which can destroy our democratic choices.

The most serious questions are: What will happen if there is a change in government? How will the Ministers respond as they still hold power?

What is stopping the Minister responsible for elections making verbal decisions that may affect the establishment of a new government?

Unity Fiji will change the law to establish a caretaker government that is not allowed to make new or amend policies from the day the election writ is issued. In addition, we will require Ministers to step down two weeks before the elections.

Like every person in Fiji, Unity Fiji would like to see a quick and smooth transition to a new government. This is an important step in our maturity as a democracy.

To allow us to make those changes, people must vote. In my opinion, the most important issue to vote for is leadership. Everything else hinges on our choice of leaders.

Let us learn from the past and compare the competencies of leaders of all political parties. Unity Fiji believes that we have the comparative advantage of economic and financial leadership that will give more jobs to our youths, raise the incomes of everyone, reduce poverty especially of resource owners, moderate the cost of living and reduce debt.

We will do what we say we will do because we have demonstrated our credibility in our loyal and long service to the country.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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