Introductory Statement by the Supervisor of Elections

Mr Mohammed Saneem

2018 General Election Publications Launch

Suva – 18th January, 2018 – 3:00pm

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Members of the Electoral Commission, Members of the Diplomatic Community, The Commissioner of Police, Invited guests, Colleagues from the Fijian Elections Office, Ladies and Gentlemen;

Bula Vinaka and welcome to this important event this afternoon.

Today marks a significant milestone achievement for the Fijian Elections Office as we will be launching a few essential compilations heading to the 2018 General Election.

This afternoon, the Electoral Commission will be launching the Candidates Handbook, Media Handbook, the Provisional List of Polling Venues and the 1st Provisional Voter list for the 2018 General Election.

The 2015 – 2019 Strategic Plan of the Fijian Elections Office setup the framework for Capacity development in elections in Fiji. We have already introduced the Polling Agents handbook last year to assist the Political Parties in their capacity building programs with their agents. We sent 1000 copies of the Handbook to each Political Party for their distribution and use.

The FEO also conducted direct training of Political Parties in last quarter of 2017 to build capacity of Party executives in terms of the electoral process and the legal framework. Out of the 7 registered parties, 5 parties attended the workshops that I personally conducted. I am sure, parties will be able to better understand the electoral process now than before.

In 2014, the FEO managed to compile and release the provisional voter list sometimes in June some 3 months before the Election. We activated the 545 sms platform to allow voters to check where they are assigned to vote.

The FEO received 600,000 queries on this platform, 100,000 on Election Day alone. In 2018 we are releasing the first provisional right now in January.

My colleagues will be explaining the particulars relating to other publications in a few moments. The Fijian Elections Office thanks the continuous support and guidance of the Electoral Commission and appreciates the input of the Commission in the publications we do.

I will speak no further but invite the Chairperson, Mr. Chandra to please come and deliver his keynote address this afternoon.

 

Statement by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission

Mr Suresh Chandra

2018 General Election Publications Launch

Suva – 18th January, 2018 – 3:00pm

Fellow Electoral Commissioners, Heads and Members of the Diplomatic Corp, Leaders and members of Political Parties, The Commissioner of Police, Members of the Media, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;

Ni sa Bula Vinaka and a very warm welcome to you all this afternoon.

Today, we will launch some important publications that will be used in preparation for, during and after the 2018 General Election.

This afternoon, we will unveil to you all, the Candidates Handbook, the Media Handbook, the Provisional Voter List and the Provisional Polling Venue List.

Ladies and gentlemen, generally in Fiji, an election is viewed as an exercise to be conducted by the Electoral Office. It is viewed as something that is the complete responsibility of the Electoral Office and at the end of the Election, after the results, when the observers do a report, the whole report is sort of slapped onto the Electoral Office as – ‘this is your report’.

But that is not the case. An election is something that deals with several stakeholders. For instance, one – yes, of course, the Electoral Office. But two is Parliament because Parliament makes the laws based on which elections are held.

Then there is the Parliamentary Standing Committee. The Parliamentary standing committee is charged with reviewing electoral reports and then dealing with the necessary legal requirement that need to be looked at. Then of course there are political parties. The political parties are the key players in an election so they cannot be said to be not part of the elections.

Speaking generally, looking at the world politics, political parties are sometimes good players and political parties are sometimes bad players.

In some countries, political parties so powerful they even stop people from going into polling stations. They are so rich that they buy votes. But in Fiji we have laws that protect Fijians against that.

Then we have voters. Voters are the most essential component for an election. They are the whole reason why there is an election.

And then, we have the media. The media is sort of the conduit between a voter and the information. Whatever information the media produces is absorbed by the voter and it is up to the voter to then siphon the information for one that is most relevant it and then use it to determine who he or she votes for.

Media also plays another important role in terms of the being the voice of individual voters by highlighting matters of national importance.

It is very important that the media ensures that it is reporting facts. Facts that are verifiable. Facts that have been actually verified.

It is not sufficient for the media organization to report if one politician stands and says, ‘OK, the river has dried up’, and the media just says that the river has dried up without even checking if the river is actually flooded.

Media also plays a significant role in terms of transmitting electoral information from the Electoral Office to the voter. In this sense, the media must make sure that the information that it transmits from the Fijian Elections Office [FEO] or from the Electoral Commission is reported accurately. Don’t lose it in paraphrasing.

The FEO informs us that there was a case where we published a feature article and the title of the feature article was amended without consent of the FEO. This must have caused some confusion but it was sufficiently covered in the article.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, the Electoral Act, the Political Parties Act and the Registration of Voters Act specifically lays out the roles and responsibilities of parties and the media. The FEO has compiled all these responsibilities in booklets to assist the media and the candidates to understand their roles within the process. We believe that once all stakeholders beef up their capacities on elections, it will contribute to the enhancement of the credibility of the elections. The concept of free and fair election does not only rest with the Electoral Commission. The concept of free and fair election is the responsibility of every stakeholder. And in this case, free and fair elections mean political parties, voters and the media and any other stakeholder must conform firstly to the legal principles. And secondly, they must respect the rights and beliefs of every other person.

The Candidates Handbook is designed, and it’s been produced in the major languages as well, to assist any potential candidate to understand the candidate requirements, the legal requirements as well as the process for elections.

The Media Handbook of course, is only in English to facilitate media organizationsin understanding the process and what they can and what they cannot cover.

I would like to congratulate the team at the FEO for the hard work they have done they have in producing these important booklets.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we are all aware, the election may be held between April and November this year. And it is a good thing that we have managed to produce some of these essential capacity building material in January 2018. I hope that it will be put to good use. Moving onto the Provisional Voters List.

Ladies and gentlemen, the provisional voters list, as the director will explain later on, this is the first time we are able to produce the first provisional voter list months away from an election.

This is to assist Fijians ascertain where they will be voting and in the event changes are necessary, they can do so.

I just hope it is not the case when it is election time, say sometime later on in the year, someone stands up and says, ‘I did not change my details’. At that time, you only have yourself to blame.

Another publication being launched today is the 2018 Provisional Polling Venue List. There were 1361 polling venues in 2014 and the numbers have increased to 1435 after assessments of polling venues in 2016 and 2017.

Ladies and gentlemen, these publications before you today are in line with the Commission’s theme – ‘Raising the Standards in the Delivery of Elections in Fiji.’ The materials and content for all publications have been well researched and thoroughly verified to be authentic, apolitical and transparent.

My fellow Commissioners and I have had the opportunity to sight the materials and we are impressed by the simplicity of the content especially since the material will be available for anyone to use.

And the Supervisor of Elections tells me that there will be more publications in the coming months as the FEO gears up to be in full elections mode by April, 2018.

With these few words, I wish the FEO all the best for their preparations.

Thank you for your attendance today ladies and gentlemen and I encourage you to peruse through these materials.

Vinaka Vakalevu

. …ends…

Vote of Thanks by the Supervisor of Elections

Mr Mohammed Saneem

2018 General Election Publications Launch

Suva – 18th January, 2018 – 3:00pm

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission,

Electoral Commissioners;

Heads and Members of the Diplomatic Corp,

Leaders and members of Political Parties,

Members of the Media,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ni sa Bula Vinaka and thank you all for attending the function this afternoon.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a busy few months for the staff at the Fijian Elections Office as they worked around the clock to have these material ready for the launch today.

At this juncture, I would like to offer my thanks to all those who contributed towards the success of the event today.

Firstly, a big vinaka vaka levu to the Electoral Commission Chairperson for your words of encouragement and motivation to my staff and to the Electoral Commissioners for approving these publications.

Representatives from the Diplomatic Corp, members of Political Parties and our stakeholders from the ESAG and EDAWG committees, thank you for your presence to witness this launch.

The staff of FEO who worked tirelessly to ensure that the content and material for these publications were prepared on time also deserve congratulations.

Director Operations and her team have performed exceptionally in finalizing the Provisional Voter List and the Provisional Polling Venue List.

The Communications Team has also delivered a Media Handbook that can stand alongside international publications of a similar nature, reflecting the high standards that the FEO sets for itself.

The Legal Procedures team – Ana Mataiciwa and Mesake Dawai have conducted thorough research in their effort to compile content for the Candidates Handbook. I acknowledge our partnership with International IDEA who have supported the compilation of the handbook.

The Corporate Team including Procurement and Finance have also met some very tight deadlines and sometimes gone out of their way to ensure that all publications were produced on time and ready for launch today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the FEO has nearly completed another milestone event this month.

We have managed to distribute 600,000 pocket calendars and 17,000 desktop calendars around the country. Pocket calendars were directly sent to each school to be distributed to students.

This Project was handled by Mr. Arin Kumar, public relations Officer. Arin has worked very hard the last couple of weeks and I invite the Chairperson, Mr. Chandra to please present Arin with this Award in recognition of his dedication and commitment. Well done Arin.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before I conclude, here is a snapshot of the 2018 General Election based on the 31 December 2017 data:

The Fijian Elections Office has completed the adjudication exercise of the National Register of Voters Data for the year 2017. The total number of Registered Voters stands at 624,404 out of which 308,780 are females and 315,624 are males.

The distribution of voters are as follows. The Central Division has 263,506 votes followed by western division with 232,606 and northern having 94,408 and eastern recorded 26,320 voters. At the conclusion of the overseas voter registration drive the FEO has recorded 7,564 voters all of who have to apply for a postal vote once election date is announced.

The FEO has also confirmed that it will operate 1435 Polling venues around the country. Prepoll will be conducted in 589 of these venues and the remainder 846 will vote on election day. Based on the voter data as at 31 December 2017, the FEO calculates it will operate 1551 polling stations on election day.

The total number of voters (without factoring any voter who may apply for a postal vote) who are ideally expected to vote on election day stands at 550,735 and those under Prepoll arrangements are 73,669. The 7,564 voters registered overseas will have to apply for a postal vote once the election date is announced.

We are also able to calculate that based on the current voter data and polling station numbers, the FEO will be required to print 757,850 ballot papers and compile 15,157 ballot books. The minimum contingency at each polling station is 10% and maximum will be the remainder in the last book.

The total number of polling staff required for the General Election based on the above voter data will be 10,593. In central division the FEO will require 3555 election officials, 2147 in Eastern Division, 3233 in Western Division, Northern will need 1658 election officials and in Prepoll the FEO will operate 89 teams made-up of 445 officials.

The FEO has continuously updated the National Register of Voters since the conclusion of the 2014 General Election. The following is a breakdown explaining the registration rate as well as result of continuous data cleaning exercise by the FEO:

2014 – 591,101 Registered Voter 2016 – 607,350 Registered Voters 2017 – 624,404 Registered Voters Thank you very much and Vinaka Vakalevu.

–Ends–

Electoral Commissioners with the Fijian Elections Office Publications that were launched in Suva this afternoon.