Statement by Supervisor of Elections
Mr Mohammed Saneem
01st November 2017
Political Campaigning Framework

Bula Vinaka Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank for your attendance.

As you are aware, the Writ for the 2018 General Election may be issued any time after 6 April 2018. Effectively, we may be 6 months away from the issue of Writ for the next General Election.

As such, as is obvious, we are now witnessing increased political campaign activities around the country. We are witnessing increased mobilization of political figures as well as seminars and related events by political parties and their nominees.

Political campaign messages and promises are also becoming prominent in the media, both official media as well as social media. It is expected that Political Parties, their nominees and workers will intensify their messaging in the coming months to garner support from the voters. Care must be taken particularly on social media to avoid vilification of religion or invasion of private space of individuals.

It has therefore become important for the Fijian Elections Office to remind the Political Parties, nominees of Political Parties, their workers as well as

prospective candidates to adhere to the Electoral Act, the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Act and the Code of Conduct.

We cannot emphasize enough that the most important stakeholder in an election is the voter and the election management body will at all times operate to protect the voter from unethical and unfair campaign practices. Voters must be allowed to exercise their rights to choose their preferred candidate and vote for them without any form of threat, intimidation or inducement.

It is common knowledge that campaigns can unscrupulously target potential groups of voters which may have negative effects on others. It is essential that information and language used in campaigns upholds the dignity of individuals. We would also add that campaigners must ensure that voters are not misled with incorrect information.

One of the fundamental tenets of ‘free and fair elections’ is ethical campaigns.

The Fijian Elections Office will refer any reports of malpractice in campaigns to FICAC for investigation. We may do so following the receipt of a report or we may do so in exercise of our own discretion as per s18 of the Electoral Act.

It is important to highlight certain legal requirements, responsibilities and restrictions when it comes to campaign as well.

The FEO has opened new complaints platform for voters to report any suspicious behavior resulting from campaigns directly through email – complaints@feo.org.fj or they can contact us on mobile 8912685. Letters addressed to the Supervisor of Elections can be hand delivered to any FEO office or posted to P.O.Box 2528, Government Buildings, Suva.

Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, as we progress into a more intensified campaign period, we urge all electoral stakeholders to exercise their rights and freedoms responsibly. We urge every voter to be conscious of their individual right to choose their own candidate and this right should not be compromised by any other individual. We are available to receive reports and action through law enforcement necessary remedies in the event any voter may feel their rights are being compromised.

Electoral Act

Campaign rules

116.—(1) Any political party, any candidate for election to Parliament and any person representing, or acting under the direction of, any political party or any candidate must—

(a)respect the rights and freedoms of all other political parties and candidates to campaign, and to disseminate their political ideas and principles without fear; and

(b)conduct itself in a manner that respects the rights of other political parties and candidates, and respects the rights of voters.

(3) Any political party, any candidate for election to Parliament and any person representing, or acting under the direction of, any political party or any candidate must not—

(c) use any language or publish or distribute pamphlets, newsletters or posters or make any broadcast containing language or material that amounts to racial or religious vilification or that threatens or incites violence;

(5) Any person who contravenes subsections (3) or (4) commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or to both.

Prohibition on vote buying

114.—(1) It shall be unlawful for political parties, candidates and their representatives, either personally or through other persons, to give or offer to any citizen money, gifts, material goods of any value (except for campaign material) or services free of charge, to sell goods or services to persons at a preferential price, or to promise to provide any monetary fund, gift, material goods or services of any value for the purpose of gaining or influencing votes in an election.

(2) Any person who contravenes this section commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or to both.

It is also necessary that we highlight the legal framework around funding and particularly on sources of funds for the purposes of campaign:

Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Act Sources of funds for a political party and independent candidate

21.—(1) The sources of funds for a political party shall only be from—

(a)membership fees;

(b)voluntary contributions, donations, bequests and grants from a lawful source, not being from a foreign government, inter-governmental or non-governmental organisation; and

(c)the proceeds of any investment, project or undertaking in which the political party has an interest.

(2) The sources of funds for an independent candidate shall only be from—

(a)voluntary contributions, donations, bequests and grants from a lawful source, not being from a foreign government, inter-governmental or non-governmental organisation; and

(b)the proceeds of any investment, project, or undertaking in which the independent candidate has an interest.

Political Parties and prospective Independent Candidates need to be mindful of the limitations in funding under s22 of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding & Disclosures) Act,

22.—(1) A political party or a candidate for election to Parliament (or any person on behalf of the political party who is involved in the administration of the affairs of the political party including any office holder of the political party, or any person on behalf of the candidate) who receives any political donation from a foreign government, inter-governmental or non- governmental organisation, or multilateral agency, commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to both.

(2)Subject to subsection (6), any person who is a Fijian citizen or a former Fijian citizen shall not make any political donation to a political party or to a candidate for election to Parliament (or to any person on behalf of the political party who is involved in the administration of the affairs of the political party including any office holder of the political party, or to any person on behalf of the candidate) of an amount exceeding $10,000 in any one year (whether to one or more registered political parties or candidates).

(3)Any person who is not a Fijian citizen or a former Fijian citizen, shall not make a political donation to any political party or candidate for election to Parliament.

(4)A person who contravenes subsections (2) or (3) commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to both.

(5)A political party or a candidate for election to Parliament (or any person on behalf of the political party who is involved in the administration of the affairs of the political party including any office holder of the political party, or any person on behalf of the candidate) who receives a political donation from any person who is not a Fijian citizen or former Fijian citizen, or receives a political donation exceeding $10,000 from a Fijian citizen or a former Fijian citizen, commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to both, and in addition to the penalty imposed by this Decree, forfeit that amount to the State.

(6)Subsection (2) shall not apply to any political donation made by any founding member of the political party as political donation to the initial assets of the party within the first year of its existence.

(7)It shall be unlawful for any—

(a)political party;

(b)office holder of a political party;

(c)candidate for election to Parliament; or

(d)agent, campaigner or servant of a political party or candidate for election to Parliament,

to accept any political donation unless the political donation is from an individual.

(8) It shall be unlawful for any—

(a)political party;

(b)office holder of a political party;

(c)candidate for election to Parliament; or

(d)agent, campaigner or servant of a political party or candidate for election to Parliament, to accept any political donation from a company, a body corporate or any other entity.

(9) It shall be unlawful for any company, body corporate or any other entity to make any political donation to any—

(a)political party;

(b)office holder of a political party;

(c)candidate for election to Parliament; or

(d)agent, campaigner or servant of a political party or candidate for election to Parliament.

(10) It shall be unlawful for any company, body corporate or any other entity to make any payment or contribution to any individual for the purpose of that individual making a political donation to any—

(a)political party;

(b)office holder of a political party;

(c)candidate for election to Parliament; or

(d)agent, campaigner or servant of a political party or candidate for election to Parliament.

(11) It shall be unlawful for a company, a body corporate or any other entity to provide, and for any political party or candidate for election to Parliament (or any person on behalf of the political party who is involved in the administration of the affairs of the political party including any office holder of the political party, or any person on behalf of the candidate) to accept from a company, a body corporate or any other entity, any of the following—

(a) The full or part payment of expenditure for advertising by a political party or a candidate for election to Parliament; or

(b)the waiving of all or any part of payment of expenditure for advertising by a political party or candidate for election to Parliament.

(12)For the purposes of this section, “political donation” means a donation of money or goods and services, loan, credit facility, bond, share, negotiable security or property that is made at no charge, to a registered political party or to a candidate (or any person on behalf of the political party who is involved in the administration of the affairs of the political party including any office holder of the political party, or any person on behalf of the candidate), but does not include the labour of any person that is provided to a registered political party or to a candidate at no charge by that person.

(13)Any person who contravenes subsections (7), (8), (9), (10) and (11) commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to both.”

CODE OF CONDUCT FOR POLITICAL PARTIES

1.Every political party shall strictly observe and comply with this code of conduct.

2.This code of conduct shall regulate the behaviour of members and office holders of political parties, aspiring candidates, candidates and their supporters, promote good

governance and eradicate political malpractices. 3. Every political party shall—

(a)respond to the interests, the concerns and the needs of the citizens of Fiji;

(b)respect and uphold the democratic process as they compete for political power so as to implement their policies;

(c)promote consensus building in policy decision making on issues of national importance;

(d)promote national patriotism and national unity; and

(e)respect, uphold and promote democratic values and principles, performing inclusive participation of political party members and accountable representation in governance.

4. Every political party shall—

(a)respect the right of all persons to participate in the political process;

(b)respect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law; and

(c)respect, uphold and promote human dignity, equity, social justice, equality and non- discrimination.

5. Every political party shall—

(a)respect and uphold this Decree and any other written law relating to elections and political parties;

(b)respect and uphold their respective political party constitutions, political party election rules, political party nomination rules and any other political party rules and regulations developed and agreed upon in accordance with this code of conduct;

(c)respect, uphold and promote good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability;

(d)respect, uphold and promote democratic practices through regular, free, fair and credible elections within the political party and include having democratically elected office holders and political party organs; and

(e)perform transparency and accountability in all party policies, rules, structures, procedures and performance.

6. A political party shall not—

(a)engage in or encourage violence by its members or supporters;

(b)engage in influence peddling, bribery or any other form of corruption;

(c)accept or use illicit or illegal money;

(d)accept or use public resources other than those allocated to the political party; and

(e)advocate hatred that constitutes ethnic or religious incitement or vilification of others or any other communal antagonism.