Awareness Sessions to Enhance Electoral Capacity in Trade Union Elections

The Fijian Elections Office [FEO] will conduct interactive Awareness Sessions for Trade Unions and respective employers on Trade Union Elections and electoral best practices across Fiji from 26 to 28 September 2016.

Guidelines for Trade Union Election, which was released in November 2014, aims to create a fair, transparent and credible electoral process whilst preserving the autonomous nature of trade unions.

“We have been successfully organizing Trade Union Elections based on our guideline for the past two years nearly and we have identified gaps in electoral practices of Trade Unions that we feel need to be highlighted and resolved,” said Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem.

This years sessions also include invitations to employers of respective Trade Union members.

“The idea is to ensure that all stakeholders are fully aware of the requirements and the processes in Trade Union elections and employing agencies are one of the key stakeholders. In fact, employing agencies, especially their Human Resources teams play very critical roles during membership verification exercise”.

The FEO has this time, also opened the forum for attendance by general members of Trade Unions who may wish to learn about the electoral process the FEO implements.

The FEO has to date organized 42 Trade Union elections and 100 branch level elections.

The FEO has identified 4 key issues that it hopes to address in the interactive awareness sessions:

1.         Lack of accurate and systematic recording of members of Unions. This eventually results in teething issues at the stage of voter list production. In one instance, the variation was an inflation of the membership listing by approximately 800;

2.         Laxity in updating records at Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial   Relations and the poor enforcement of the requirements of the ERP by the Registrar of Trade Unions. FEO has been advised that annual audited reports of several unions are not provided to the Ministry at the required time every year. Sadly, the Registrar has not exercised enforcement powers to ensure due compliance;

3.         Impractical electoral models that skew towards certain interests, and

4.         Difficult requirements imposed on potential new candidates.

“The FEO continues to advocate for improvements in the record keeping in terms of Union Membership and we are proposing that the FEO is given the responsibility to maintain this record independently. I encourage administrators and union members as well as employers to attend these sessions as this is also an opportune time for them to raise queries regarding electoral processes and guidelines,” Saneem said.

Interested persons are requested to register their interest to attend any of the sessions with the Industrial Elections Team of the FEO via email: aisea.wainiqolo@localhost or arieta.ranadinivuna@localhost or phone 3316 225.

2016 Fiji National University Students Association Elections – The First

The Fijian Elections Office [FEO] conducted elections for the Fiji National University Students Association [FNUSA] last month – marking the formalization of months of preparatory work by the student steering committee and laying the foundation for the formation of the first ever Student Union within the university.

Barrel draw- Barrel draw conducted by the FEO to determine the order of candidates on the ballot paper.

Barrel draw- Barrel draw conducted by the FEO to determine the order of candidates on the ballot paper.

The Fiji National University [FNU] was formed in 2010 by bringing together various different schools and colleges throughout the country under the FNU umbrella. These schools, now called Campuses, either had student unions that were not very active or they lacked such associations entirely.

On 2 August, The Minister Responsible for Elections, exercising his power pursuant to section 154 of the Electoral Decree 2014, approved a request from the Office of the Chancellor of the FNU for the FEO to conduct FNUSA Elections.

Following the approval, FEO immediately began preparing for the election. The first challenge was formulating election standards, given that there were no regulations governing the procedural conduct of FNU elections and the Draft FNUSA Constitution only contained guidelines for candidacy. In response, the FEO decided to derive the procedures for the conduct of the election based on standards previously implemented in the successful Trade Union Elections.

The FEO implemented the following basic principles, which have consistently developed good electoral practices in small scale elections in Fiji to bring about consistency and high standards:

  1. clear and accurate timelines for elections processes;
  2. an accurate voter list;
  3. a proper and independent nomination process;
  4. a transparent and impartial polling process; and
  5. timely reconciliation of results and naming of office bearers.

FNU Student at voting screen – FNU students casting their votes to elect their student Union representatives.

FNU Student at voting screen – FNU students casting their votes to elect their student Union representatives.

The FEO prepared a proposed timeline for the election which was presented to the FNU team, as well as the representatives from the student-led Steering Committee. Once the proposed timeline was agreed, FEO advertised the Notice for the opening of nominations for the ten campuses. During the electoral process, the FEO worked in close conjunction with the Vice Chancellor’s Office at the FNU, which provided all the necessary information and logistical support that made the electoral process a success.

The table below breaks down the demographics behind the elections:

Campus Number of Positions for elections Number of Voters
Ba 7 142
Derrick 13 1,315
Koronivia 14 810
Labasa 14 301
Lautoka 9 924
Pasifika 14 1,596
Nabua 6 121
Namaka 8  601
Nasinu 8 1,273
Tamavua 11 644

 

At the close of Nominations period, it was found that many of the positions were returned uncontested. Those positions were immediately announced, however, there were 12 positions that were contested and which required the FEO to conduct campus elections.

The election itself was the largest ever conducted by FEO outside of an election year, spanning four different campuses and involving about 3,301 voters. The contested positions were President, Treasurer, Secretary, Public Relations Officer, Social and Cultural Chairperson, Assets Chairperson, Education Chairperson, Sports Chairperson and Religious Chairperson, which were to be selected from a pool of 32 candidates.FNU-Student-at-ballot-box-300x200

At universities in India, such as Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Aligarh Muslim University, student parties spend millions in campaigning and conducting elections.  They also follow similar concept in the United States of America [USA] Presidential elections, where student unions hold days of debates, promoting greater student engagement in the electoral process. These student representatives often go on to pursue careers in national level politics.

Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, said FEO used the FNUSA election as an opportunity to educate young people about how election systems operate, and he encouraged tertiary institutions to explore course offerings in electoral studies to boost national awareness and engagement with the electoral process.

“Our students are the future of this country, and it is vital that we impart an understanding of our electoral systems to our young people so that they can uphold our democratic systems. By getting involved in these FNUSA elections, we had a rare opportunity to engage with young Fijians and demonstrate electoral best practices so that we can increase voter understanding and participation down the road,” he said.

The 2016 FNUSA Election was conducted in line with recognized electoral best practices, which included:

  1.  The appointment of Mr. Mesake Dawai, FEO’s Review and Compliance Officer, as Returning Officer, which created an independent and impartial electoral environment. Mr. Dawai was also able to act as a conduit between the FNU and the Steering Committee during the process to ensure all stakeholders were able to cooperate and support the process.
  2. The publication of election notices in the media, which enhanced voter access and boosted interest in the election.
  3. The campaign guidelines in the FNUSA regulations that helped foster a peaceful, ethical and calm electoral environment.
  4. FEO’s implementation of a standard Nomination Form for all Candidates. This allowed for appropriate vetting, as per the Constitution, and greater transparency, in case a nominee wished to appeal the decision of the Returning Officer.
  5.  The Office of the Registrar at FNU’s submission of a list of eligible members who were entitled to vote in the election five weeks prior to the election. This comprehensive list assisted the FEO in determining the validity of Nominations.
  6. The “barrel draw” conducted by the FEO to determine the order of candidates on the ballot paper. This event was open to all candidates and other stakeholders.
  7. The FEO’s Postal Voting and Attendance Voting programmes which ensured maximum access for students. The polling stations were open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all four campuses. Postal voting was available to those students who were on industrial attachments on the day of elections.
  8. The Polling Place setup, which replicated the General Election Setup, and the polling materials, which were the same as the General Election. The FEO did not use indelible ink in this election, as there was only one voter list and only one polling place – this is sufficient to prevent double voting in a small scale election.
  9. The 12,000 ballot papers printed by the FEO for this election. Printing was done in-house and it was decided that different positions up for election would be assigned different color ballot papers. Depending on the polling locations, voters received up to five different ballots to select candidates.
  10. An open ballot counting held on Wednesday, 26 October at venues assigned by the FNU. The counting was widely covered by the media.
  11. The formal announcement to the media, the Steering Committee, the Registrar’s Office and all the candidates following the Count.

Throughout the election, the Fiji Sun, Communications Fiji Limited and the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation all demonstrated consistent interests in the electoral process and outcome. These three media organizations actively reported on the elections and showed a strong commitment to supporting election events. Their invaluable support played a major role in publicizing candidates in the media – adding a layer of excitement and encouragement for those young people interested in pursuing politics.

According to FNU Vice Chancellor, Professor Nigel Healey, it is in the interests of students to have a very strong representative student body, and the FNUSA is now more qualified than ever to speak on behalf of students.

“It is very important that we have a student association that actually provides services to our students– that’s actually supporting them — in place. Because people come to university, not just for an education, they come in for a holistic experience,” he said.

The FEO recognizes that there is a need to develop capacity in elections in Fiji, not only for FEO staff, but for all Fijians. And this new involvement in Student Association elections at FNU is an effective step towards this goal. The Supervisor of Elections had also indicated that in the future, the FEO will directly involve students as election workers as well.

At the declaration of Results, Returning Officer, Mr Dawai, acknowledged and thanked the FNU and the FNUSA for inviting FEO to conduct elections for the various positions. He concluded with the following remarks.

“This is the first time election was conducted in a single day for FNUSA and we believe that, as such elections become periodic and consistent, we will receive positive turnout and increased active voter participation,” he said.

 

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Fijian Elections Office [FEO] 2016 Electronic Voter Registration [EVR] Card Replacement Drive enters final week

Fijians have seven more days to take advantage of the 2016 Electronic Voter Registration [EVR] Card Replacement Drive.

Fijian Elections Office [FEO] teams will be present in major towns and centres until Wednesday 20 July 2016 to allow members of the public to replace lost or damaged EVR Cards, change their details with the FEO and register to vote.

These voter services are instantaneous and free of cost.

Registered voters who wish to replace their lost or damaged EVR Cards simply need to come down to any of our EVR Centers and fill out the provided form to instantly receive their new EVR card.

Registered voters who wish to change their residential address and other personal details need to bring a valid birth certificate.

Eligible voters who wish to register need to bring their birth certificate and a valid form of ID.

For details on the locations and times, check daily newspapers or visit the FEO website: http://goo.gl/wSHSw5

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Fiji appointed Pacific rep to the Commonwealth Electoral Network

Election Management Body (EMB) Reps from the Pacific Region have nominated Fiji to the eight-member Steering Committee of the Commonwealth Electoral Network [CEN] at the 2016 CEN Biennial Conference in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

Mr. Saneem (left) presents a report on Gender Mainstreaming in Pacific elections while Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Josephine Ojiambo (third from left) listens to his presentation during the 2016 CEN Biennial Conference.

The CEN was launched in 2010 by the Commonwealth Secretariat after it was endorsed by the Commonwealth Heads of Government. The Network promotes capacity building of Commonwealth election management bodies in conducting credible and inclusive elections in line with international best practices.

The Steering Committee of the CEN is composed of national election commissioners of Commonwealth member countries. The Chairperson of the Election and Boundaries Commission of Trinidad & Tobago, Mr. Mark Ramkerrysingh, has taken over Chairmanship of the CEN from Mr. Ahmed Issack Hassan, Chairperson of the Kenyan Electoral Commission.
“This is the first time that Fiji has participated at the CEN Biennial Conference which had participants from 39 Commonwealth member countries and being nominated as Pacific Rep to the Steering Committee is a great honor,” said Mr. Mohammed Saneem, Supervisor of Elections.
The 2016 CEN Biennial Conference served as a platform to discuss important issues such as strengthening women’s participation in elections, use ofnew technologies, social media, Commonwealth principles of good electoral practice, media guidelines, independence of EMBs and voter registration.
As one of the presenters at the Conference, Mr. Saneem spoke about the success of the Pacific Electoral Networks [PEN] Meeting held in Nadi, Fiji earlier this year which was hosted by the FEO in collaboration with the CEN and the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators Network [PIANZEA]. Mr. Saneem also presented a report on Gender Mainstreaming in Pacific Elections.
“It was also an opportunity for the FEO to extend its network and strengthen their institutional capacity through the exchange of knowledge and experiences,” Mr. Saneem said. “We will definitely continue to expand on this front and gain friends in the international electoral arena.”
The Conference took place from 22-24 June, 2016 and Samoa has also been nominated as a Rep for the Pacific Region.

Fijian Elections Office Extends 2016 Voter Registration Drive

The Fijian Elections Office [FEO] has extended the 2016 School Electronic Voter Registration [EVR] Drive to all major towns and centres around Fiji for the next 2 weeks.

“Since the beginning of the 2016 School Voter registration Drive, we have been receiving several requests from members of the public who either wanted to update their addresses with us or get a replacement Id card and that is why FEO has extended the registration drive to major town centres,” Supervisor of Elections Mr Mohammed Saneem said.

Eligible voters who wish to register need to bring their birth certificate and a valid form of ID to register.

For details on the locations and times, check daily newspapers or visit the FEO website.

Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections joins MSG Observer Mission to Vanuatu

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The Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Mohammed Saneem, will join the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Observer Mission to observe the Snap Election in Vanuatu scheduled for January 22, 2016.

The MSG Observer Mission is led by former parliamentarian and Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Sir Francis Billy Hilly and will also include observers from Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.

FEO_1

Supervisor of Elections, Mr. Mohammed Saneem at the Bougainville Election 2015

Former President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will also take part in the MSGs Observer Mission from Fiji. The Observer Mission will be joined by observer teams from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth.

Mr. Saneem said he was honoured to observe Vanuatu’s Snap Election following Fiji’s participation in the Bougainville Election through the Pacific Islands Forum Observer Mission last year.

“As an Election Management Body (EMB), we are keen to observe elections throughout the Pacific to assist other EMBs and build trust and confidence in the democratic process through the conduct of transparent and accountable elections,” said Mr. Saneem.

The Snap Election will be contested by 183 candidates who will be vying for 52 seats, elected for a term of four years under 17 multi-member constituencies. The MSG Observer Mission will observe the conduct of these elections in line with international electoral practices.

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