As Fiji awaits the announcement of the new constitution, one of the major changes being anticipated is the electoral system that will be used in the country for the first time. The new constitution will also confirm the type of electoral system that will be adopted as we move towards the 2014 elections. In the draft constitution prepared by the government’s legal team, it was proposed that the election of members of parliament is by a multi-member open list system of proportional representation, under which each voter has one vote with each vote being of equal value.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Fiji.
Fiji’s Electoral Commission will be set up once the new Constitution is in place. Once established, it will be responsible for registering voters and conducting free and fair elections. The Commission consists of a chairperson and four others – appointed by the President – on the advice of the Prime Minister. Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says their appointment will be made once the constitution has been adopted. “Because the Electoral Commission needs to be appointed under the Constitution and I would suspect that would be the first thing that needs to be done.”
While an electronic voter registration system has been applauded, there are fears the absence of a paper trail for voting may compromise the counting process. Professor Wadan Nasey, a Fijian academic at Australia’s James Cook University told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program that electronic voting may also be confusing for some voters. ”A lot of our people are very, very uneducated and they’re not able to even use an ATM machine,” he said.
The electronic voting kit for the Electronic Voting Registration (EVR) will arrive into the country next week from Canada. Elections Office logistic team leader Major Isoa Loanakadavu confirmed CODE Corporation in Canada would supply the Biometric Voter Registration System (BVRS) under the Biometric Voter Registration agreement between the corporation and the government of Fiji. “The electronic voting kit will be arriving from Canada three weeks prior to the launch on July 3,” Major Loanakadavu said. Training on the use of the EVR will begin once the BVRS arrives. “Training will be conducted by representatives from CODE Corporation as part of the contract signed during the agreement,” Major Loanakadavu said. “They will conduct training to trainers. These trainers will then be deployed to centres to conduct training on the selected personnel (1118 personnel) prior to the actual deployment for the EVR.”
The Electoral Commission is expected to undergo reforms in an effort to create an environment for free and fair elections in 2014.
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said inefficiencies in the previous election process could not be blamed entirely but instead problems arose also from a lack in adherence to existing election rules. He added more clearer rules is needed for the election process to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
The Election Office is working to implement electronic voter registration in time for the 2014 general elections.
A Government statement said the office was exploring ways to facilitate it. “The work plan for the establishment of a system of electronic voter registration will be sent to overseas missions and multilateral organisations in Fiji for their assistance in implementing the work plan,” the statement said.