Response to Mr Niko Nawaikula’s Social Media Post

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections

Mr Mohammed Saneem

Response to Mr Niko Nawaikula’s Social Media Post

FEO Media Centre- 1 June 2020 – 3.30pm

I would like to make a statement to respond to Mr Niko Nawaikula’s social media statement. This is because we have seen that Mr Nawaikula’s social media post has garnered significant attention from the public and we would like to respond to it.

First of all, I would like to point out that Mr Nawaikula has got the law wrong when he has suggested that the Supervisor of Elections is actually advising the Speaker. The Speaker of Parliament is an independent authority with a set of staff which has qualified legal professionals as well as constitutional mandated legal advice from various offices. As such it does not have to seek and it did not seek the advice of the Supervisor of Elections and this is an incorrect assumption by Mr Niko Nawaikula.

Mr Nawaikula has also incorrectly contended that even though the Social Democratic Liberal Party has been suspended, the Parliamentarians should have been afforded the opportunity to participate in Parliament. This is an incorrect assumption, both on fact and law.

I would like to clarify this by raising the following which are now significant features of the Fijian Electoral system:

1. Under the electoral system, nominations at the General Election are done by Political Parties using Party Lists. All candidates for the election by the Party are listed by order of preference in the Party List by the Party.
2. Once all the results are in, the SoE prepares the Final National Results Tally which contains the total number of votes achieved by each candidate listed in descending order within the Party.
3. The total votes received by the Party is used to determine if that Party has met the threshold of 5%.
4. If the Party has met the threshold, then the Electoral Commission determines the number of seats that the Party will occupy in Parliament. The Electoral Commission will then fill those seats from the candidates of the Party from the Final National Results Tally.

It is a Party based system. In the case of the suspended SODELPA, there are 21 seats and the 21 candidates who have received the highest number of votes from that Party are currently in Parliament, in suspension at the moment. Those Parliamentarians are in the Parliament representing their Party and cannot claim entitlement to the seat in Parliament personally. It is a Party Seat.

Therefore, as per the Political Parties Act, once the Party is suspended it cannot hold itself out or function as a Political Party. This would include its functions to be present in Parliament.

In the National Federation Party Suspension Case, the High Court in paragraph 21 of its ruling had upheld that the Registrar was correct in announcing that the Party could not operate, function, represent or hold itself out to be a Political Party. The Judge said “once a political party is suspended there is no such political party in existence before the law during the period of suspension and therefore it cannot operate as a Political Party…”

Since the party has not been de-registered yet, Mr., Nawaikula, in referring to section 20 of the Act, is rather putting the cart before the horse. Since there still remains significant time to remedy the contravention, going any further on the effects of section 20 is rather moot at this point.

At this time, ladies and gentleman, it is of paramount importance that officials in the suspended party act on remedying the breaches, if they have not done so till now, instead of making such poorly researched statements on social media. Having perused such statements, I am obliged to clarify the legal position and on the same note, I caution Mr. Nawaikula to seek proper legal advice before he produces such articles to mislead the public.

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