Political Party Decree Misconceived


By Crosbie Walsh

The new Political Party (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosure) Decree  comes into force from this Friday, January 18, 2013. The 16 existing political parties, and any new party in the process of formation,  will need to register within 28 days. The registration fee is  $5005.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says  the decree drew its inspiration from the existing law, the Kenyan and New South Wales (Australian) model as well as the Canadian model.

Numbers
To register, parties must show they are "truly" representative. They will need  at least 5,000 members drawn from all the four divisions: 2,000 from the Central, 1,750 from the Western, 1,000 from the Northern and 250 from the Eastern Division.  The A-G says  5,000 equates to about one percent of registered eligible voters and the geographical distribution is similar to that of the overall  population. Parties are also required to have party offices in all these divisions, which he says is a common requirement overseas. I was unable to find any democratic country where is it a  "requirement".   The former required membership for registration was 180.

Assets and donations
Parties, party officials and politicians will be required to make a full declaration of assets, liabilities, income, and donations, and the party's finances will require an annual audit. The limit of $10,000 donations (and no donations from private companies, trade unions, foreign governments and NGOs)  is intended to prevent undue influence on party policies.

The trade union limitation is similar to New South Wales where it was argued TU members paid their fees to the union, not to fund a political party. A similar argument has been made in NZ  but some  unions are still 'collective' members of the Labour Party and contribute substantially to its funds.

Code of Conduct
The decree also requires parties to abide to a Code of Conduct, a requirement similar to that in the Ghai draft constitution.

No public officers 
The most controversial requirements concern initial membership.  For an unstated period, no public officers will be allowed to hold office or form part of the initial 5,000 membership numbers, or stand in the 2014 Election.

“The public officers", the A-G said,  "include members of statutory boards, from the public service including the police, prisons, Republic of Military Force, officials from trade union movements, judges/magistrates and so forth. The list ...will also include organisations such as employer’s federation who will not be eligible to become officials and/or members of the political parties but will require their resignation if they want to join a political party." He said the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers are not part of this list.

Comment
Government intentions in this decree are either to encourage the formation of genuinely national, multi-racial parties immune to corrupting donations.  Or to discourage the formation of any party that may, on winning the 2014 election, undermine its work over the past six years. Or a bit of both.  But either, or both, ways, some of the decree's requirements are excessive, even  impossible.

Coming on top of its more justifiable but still criticised action on the draft constitution, the decree will also be seen as repressive. and further undermine Government's  credibility as the initiator of the dialogue process. The recruitment of respected, able people for the Constituent Assembly will now be that much more difficult.  Government PR will need to be working overtime to remedy the situation. So far the limited explanations offered on the new decree  are not very convincing.

The 5,000 membership  and geographical requirement  is an unreasonable requirement for party registration. It might be acceptable later when the parties register election candidates but even then 5,000 will be an impossible number for all but the old three-four major parties.

Assuming all 16 of the existing parties will seek registration, collectively they will need to sign up 80,000 members, more than one in ten of the total population. In each of the four divisions the 16 parties will be competing with each to obtain the necessary number.  In the Eastern Division, which is overwhelmingly iTaukei, to be successful each party must recruit at least 250  members. What chance has any of the smaller parties or the old FLP, that will still be considered Indo-Fijian by most iTaukei?   Even at their most popular, I doubt that any past or present party has ever had 5,000 paid up members.  This requirement alone makes a mockery of the remainder of the decree.  I would have thought evidence of multi-racial membership more important than numbers.

I have yet to sight the decree but the requirement also seems to rule out the possibility of important groupings standing for election. These would seem to be independents, smaller parties, new parties, and parties with a strong local presence in fewer than all four divisions. The net result could be a Parliament comprised of only two large parties which, from past experience,  lends itself to confrontational politics and prevents the emergence of coalition governments.

I also have difficult accepting that trade union officials, employer representatives and similar others are public officers in the normal use of the term, and the exclusion of public officers from party membership.  The limitation on public servants is understandable because there could be a conflict of interest, but the exclusion of other "public officers" will prevent almost anyone with a public persona from belonging to a political party.  The requirement should be that they resign from public office if they accept nomination as a party candidate in an election.  Or even if they are members of a political party's  national executive. Not if they are merely party members.

The exclusion of the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers from the list of public officials begs explanation.  They are the most public of public officers, and their exclusion can only be taken to mean that one or more of them will form a political party or stand as candidates in the 2014 Election.  This is something the PM has previously denied and acceptance of the draft constitution would have made impossible.

The anti-Government blogs have make much of the requirement for parties to register the name of their party in English. I see no problem with this. English is an official language and the lingua franca. Parties will also be able to have names in the vernacular languages.

But, overall, though for a different reason, I'm with the anti-blogs. They will do anything to discredit government and undermine the dialogue process.  I wish to see the dialogue process succeed.

This decree is counter-productive. It plays into the hands of Government's opponents and will result in a loss of support.. The decree should be immediately  amended to make the requirements more  reasonable and acceptable.

Comments

Its called a dictatorship croz said…
Croz
Do you know what a dictatorship is? It can do what it likes. Get used to it - there is much more to come. And if you behave well and support it you and the wife may get an all expenses paid trip to observe the repression and abuse first hand!!
Beyond dubious said…
Unlike the above commenter, I don't believe a trip to Fiji for Croz and his wife is relevant or even fair to mention. This is not about Croz. This is about Fiji and the ongoing rape of an assumed democracy.
More than any other decree, this latest one truly demonstrates and reveals the intentions of this illegal government. Worse yet, they don't even try to hide it. They are making it perfectly clear that any newly elected government will come in entirely under the terms of an unelected government. Even if the country wanted to elect someone like Qarase, the Bainimarama administration is disallowing it. That is not a democracy. It is spitting in the face of democracy.

Fiji is looking at years of poor investment and oppressive public treatment.
Terribly, terribly sad.
Anonymous said…
Think about it Croz, it is perfect. It removes all old leaders makes it very hard to form a new party and creates a golden road for the PM and his team to form a party, win and carry on. When the new draft constitution comes out I bet the max terms for PM and President are removed. They plan to be in power for a long long time - you know it and I know it.
Anonymous said…
Not misconceived. erfectly conceived if your main plan is to stay in power !
Anonymous said…
So that leaves a bunch of no-body's who qualify to run the country. A bit like we have now really.
Cin Cin said…
Croz,

It would appear that the regime doesn't require any assistance when it comes to undermining whatever credibility they had prior to the Ghai commission, and subsequent events. This doesn't play well, no matter how much spin is applied to it.

It isn't beyond the realms of possibility that one or two of the major parties will meet the requirements. Despite their previous shortcomings - yes Croz, some of us disapproved of them, they just weren't as odious as this present mob - their participation is important if not for the obvious fact that they can claim to represent a sizeable percentage of the voting population, albeit pre 2006.

Tactically, Khaiwhatshisnames vindicativeness and arrogance may well come back to haunt him - you would think that they would encourage the emergence of smaller parties as a counter balance against the older players.

International opinion does matter, and this decree will not go down well with donors and neighbours alike. Following on from the apparent dumping of the Ghai draft, it doesn't look good.

Though of course, all the political parties could get together and just decide not to do anything - now that would be interesting.
Anonymous said…
Ha.ha.. so new rules now for parties.. what is the opposition going to do! It is law and sorry no-one can undo this until the next election. As for membership.. ha.. create a multicultural party and see how it goes.. because now you will see genuine sweat to do any politiks.. ohh.. International donors have always been part of the corruption.. out they go!! Bye Bye.. It appears that we will have only a two party system.. most likely a socialist type would be cropping up!! Love this system because now everyone will have to sweat for their votes and money!! bring it on.. Sorry Mickey mouse might miss out now!! my question: What are you going to do? Stand up and fight or keep talking (blogging)... Stand up my friend and form a party because that is the solution I see.. good luck .. because getting the fragmented society together is really hard work!!
Anonymous said…
International media and foreign governments have already started to react to this new decree and there seems to be a consensus where this is going: A free and fair election with one party to chose from: Frank's. I doubt, however, that Fiji's traditional friends and partners will come back and accept this new form of 'democracy'. As Zimbabwe's Mugabe, Bainimarama will be stuck with China whose only interest is Fiji's natural resources. A truly sad story for a country that could be happy and prosperous.
Joe said…
All these major parties have claimed to have support of the majority, now is the time to show it to us. If they cant come up with a mere 1% of the total eligible voters in a proportional geographical spread, something is wrong somewhere. The game of racial politics is over, and we all were looking forward to that. The time frame of 28 days is more than enough for established parties, but it should be extended for proposed newer ones that we are hearing of now.
Joker said…
@ Joe: 28 days more than enough time??? It takes a bank 8 business days to manage an electronic transfer to another bank in Fiji. If you want to have an honest conversation, at least make it honest. 28 days is hardly enough time for a government official to organise a purchase order for a tank of gas. This is a joke.
Anonymous said…
The biggest winner of this decree will be SDL - they will easily be able to make up the numbers - starting with Sunday and Saturday i-taukei church-goers - easy as apple pie - $1dollar per head membership - as Professor Croz has rightly observed, FLP might struggle but they could get around - many Indo-Fijians might join SDL and vote for FLP etc - Its win, win, win for SDL
Anonymous said…
Does the exclusion of important groupings from forming a political party extend to members of the military? This is the one group that should be excluded.

The stated objective of moving towards a truly democratic system is so often accepted in good faith in Fiji but even the most cursory glance at the actions of those who seize power by force tells us that this is exactly in line with those actions: make it almost impossible in any practical sense for anyone to compete and rig the rules to favour, or guarantee, their own "election".

This is being manipulated to aid the election of the current regime, allow it to claim legitimacy, and further claim a mandate to pursue its own interests.
Fijiwala said…
This is to directly to Frank and Aiyaz.
You two have totally lost the plot.
You come across as utterly corrupt.
Your clean-up campaign stinks.
Your behaviour towards Fr Barr was shameful.
You are both nothing but common thugs.
Most people can't stand the sight of you two anymore.
You should leave the stage now - for the good of the country.
And for your won good.
Seuz said…
Croz, I don't see a real problem having to get the 5000 members across all of Fiji. Parties will need to be broad based with a range of policies. I think that small parties that try to get elected based on a single issue can cause huge problems.
Joe said…
@ Joker: One can go to the moon and back half a dozen times within 28 days in todays technological world. What is so difficult in providing signatures of 1% of voters/party when they claim to have a majority support? Substantiate your claim. Is it hard work that they are scared of? Or have they lost their party faithfuls after the truth is out in the open? How hard is it to give up your union leadership to take up potential leadership of the nation? They like those lucrative perks at the expense of the commoners dont they?

Chaudhary went globe trotting and easily became $2M richer in a short span of time, and now finds it hard to get 5000 signatures locally. How do you explain that? It is all about hoodwinking people and scheming hard earned money from them isnt it?
Fijiwala said…
@ Joe: Why 28 days when elections are to be held in 2014?
What's the rush?
Why not 48 days? Or 50, 0r 100.
The motives are plain to see.
Genuine democracy my Ar....
Joker said…
@ Joe: It took 10+ years to finish the King's Road. It'll take 12+ months to "repair" Suva's main bridge. Comparing ANYTHING in Fiji to going to the moon is a silly argument, indeed. Logistically, Fiji is able to accomplish very little, especially with an intimidating military ruler blocking each turn.

As for Chaudry, I would never support or defend a criminal like him. My point is voicing my disbelief that the Bainimarama regime would thumb its nose so rudely at the possibility of progress being made in Fiji. There is nothing democratic about this decree. It has been written in bad faith, meant to exert some control and influence over the ideals of a democratic system.
desmond said…
Kenya has 41 million people, NSW (Aust) has 7.2 million and Canada 34 million . What parts of the decree drew inspiration from them. 5000 members from these places should be that hard to find, but Fiji? Please tell me the inspitation wasn't drawn from Kenya wher the now much mailgned Ghai had input...did he take an equally stupid inspiration for Kenya from Poland?? We need to call for what it is, no better than gerrymandering.
Fijiwala said…
Should anyone doubt that 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely', look no further than Bainimarama and Khaiyum. They are the poster boys. Thanks to them, we actually saw this unfold and manifest before our eyes!
Anonymous said…
@Seuz over 28 days?? what a joke it was never intended to be actually done by anyone.
wati s said…
And whats the bet even if it is done, then there will be another decree saying they have to have an equal mix of men, women and gays. Then a spread of age groups, then inclusive of people with diabetes and spanish speakers... and it will go on.
Anonymous said…
regime opponents should have just one anti-regime party, register a new name and scare the s*it out of the regime.
Anonymous said…
this would be the good faith from the regime that Croz has us all holding our breath for...all in a good cause eh Croz.For a fairrer Fiji and bring us all together..
Fijiwala said…
Bainimarama and Khaiyum are strategizing to hold on to power as is clear to all and one. Fiji is inching towards its own version of a Stalinist-like State, because the only way the two can retain control is through undemocratic and dictatorial means and policies. All this talk about elections is rubbish, unless you talking rigged elections.
Ram Sami said…
A very balanced view, Croz !!
Joe said…
in other words, a marriage of convenience
Invictus said…
A contemptuous disregard for the broad mass of the people is contemptible in itself: the authors and drafters of this decree live off and are paid solely by the people. They would do well to remember this at each and every turn. Reform has been required in the field of party politics in Fiji. No doubt whatsoever about that. Issuing a 'diktat' with 28 days to comply is self-destructive and fully revealing of design. Poor political strategy which will boomerang to deadly effect.
Anonymous said…
Remember those in power are making the calls, as for the opposition all is lost. Now the final decree is the final nail in the coffin. This governments strategy is impressive.. first register the people then ask the politicians to show proof of supporters if they want to run for election. Now you have to put your money where your mouth is ( who do you support?? Here were are anonymous.. but now reveal your colors pledging your support else be irrelevant to the future of this country!). Everyone will be tracked... and who they support will be visible!! No more hiding.. fantastic electronic means of tracking.. brilliant move by the government. As for the opposition, get on board or become extinct!! Also unless there is a foreign gov intervention to a deadly effect( never going to happen..too many losers!!), we are all set for election 2014 Fiji style. As for strategy, the political parties messed up big time and now it is game over. The SDL, FLP and UPP will become the past very quickly. All future comments from them will be irrelevant because they will become illegal!! Ha.. fantastic.. no academic or think tank or foreign gov analysis can stop this now!!
Anonymous said…
If he really wanted a Stalinist-state.. he would have just shot everyone who opposed him! Funny .. he is better than all the dictators previous. Even those running around the QEB during the protests would say the same.
So Predictable said…
This is a very convoluted way of saying Fiji is under a dictatorship?
Joe said…
It is also known as a level playing field, let the games begin. No one has an advantage or is disadvantaged.
Anonymous said…
its not all bad - at least you can register a party and contest the elections; how many dictatorships allow this...
Anonymous said…
The poor poor politicians. Now we will know that they speak for themselves alone and have no support at all apart from the usual suspects in the donor world. But the donor world has no right to vote, so all they can do is to influence outcomes through the NGO world. oops but we won't have a National assembly right? So where will the poor poor donors go? ILO again?
Fijiwala said…
Shooting/killing has gone out of fashion after Pol Pot et, al.
There are ways of politically incapacitating opponents without creating a killing field.
Bainimarama and Khaiyum are modern-day Stalinists employing modern, non-lethal methods to establish their rule over the people's choice.
Suez said…
I have seen alot of comments complaining about the 28 days. However, if a current party can still take longer then 28 days to comply with the decree and register, it just means that between the end of 28 days and when they finally do register they cannot "act" as a political party. So if the FLP take 38 days to register they will still be the FLP when they do. I can't see what the big deal is.
ANNON :) said…
Croz, we both live in democratic nations that have evolved into two party powers.

When the Australian parliament commenced, after federation, it was designed to have independent members from all over the country. They would then select the most appropriate and skilful member to be PM. This person was voted for by the house based on merit and skill, not on the basis of return favours.

Now, we have the choice of cat crap (ALP) or dog crap (Lib).

The PM and House could then select ministers from within. A skilful accountant could be treasurer and a skilful lawyer could be the attorney general. A skilful social worker could be minister of social services and a skilful medical professional could be minister for health.

Instead in Aus for example, we have an AG who never practised law. Why, because her party placed her in that position and not the parliament itself. Fiji too,has an AG lacking in legal competence.

It has been rightly observed in recent times that Australian politics is at its lowest point since federation. I wish WE could start over.

I have criticised articles on this site in the past. As for the proposed political decree, discussed above, I see method in the madness.


The time for vested interests are at an end. MC (FLP) and ASK are birds of a feather and I look forward to the day when these power tripping clowns are out of public sight. They have clearly shown that their interests are in self not nation.

And SDL have to confront historical and current reality. The truth hurts. Their day in the sun is over, too. As for the other smaller parties, wait and see. Are the leaders of such parties genuinely interested in advancing Fiji or are they after power for powers sake? Do they feel they have some inherent right based on their families or their own distorted perception of self-importance? Let the people decide.

The current regime will not last forever. Some of their refoms hopefully will.

My sincere hope is that this new beginning will encourage intelligent, right minded people to stand as independents - true leaders and not persons who hide in the safety of numbers with sycophants awaiting a reward like salivating dogs.

It will take bravery for those outside and within Fiji to stand up. I hope that the true leaders will now rear their heads. Their bravery will not go unnoticed.
SDL and FLP sealed their own fates. The last thing Fiji needs is another Mahen who says one thing and does another. Fiji needs leaders with vision and not men of straw who bend with the breeze.

Some of the reforms under Frank’s portfolios have been brilliant. The repression under part of the AG’s portfolio of all things legal has been devastating. It is easy to see the weak link in the current chain.

I still maintain that the displacement of the rule of law in Fiji did not have to be so profound. Measures could have been taken to partially restore it . This is the major reform component that has been ignored. Self interest of Fiji's so called "legal minds" have undermined the PM.

VB wanted to unite Fiji. That is now happening. What is the common-ground? A hatred of ASK. If VB could learn to concede occasionally he could still win the people over. Perhaps a peace offering. The AG’s head on a platter, with a side dish of his compromised lackeys, would be a nice gesture of good will. Once this happens the floodgates will open for the restoration of basic justice.

Remember Croz, not all who criticise have a vested interest. There is a lot to dislike about this current regime just as there is a lot to dislike about the FLP and SDL.

Well may we say God Save Frank, but nothing will save the Attorney General, FLP and SDL.

Anonymous said…
Dictator .. yes.. history to judge. Stalinist.. ohh... too nice for that! Stalin.. if he was still alive during the 60s.. WW3 with nukes would have started!! Pol Pot.. a pure form of communist gov.. only farmers survived. This dictator might win the election come 2014!! Technically they dont have to be shot or killed. they can just be buried Rambo Rabuka was cool but see what happens...there is not many James bonds and Rambo's around because in real life the enemy does not capture you and have a chat. This is not the movies, bullet to the head and then we can talk! Anyway, case point for dictator would be the great Fidel Castro.. now Cuba has one of the best health systems in the world!
Anonymous said…
So what are you going to do about it?
Joe said…
"The time for vested interests are at an end. MC (FLP) and ASK are birds of a feather and I look forward to the day when these power tripping clowns are out of public sight. They have clearly shown that their interests are in self not nation."

I agree with you on the MC bit. It seems you have a personal vendetta against ASK. There is absolutely no reason for the PM to ditch ASK. Aiyaz has done such a fine job, as expected of him. For your sake, lets say the PM gets rid of ASK. Who would you propose for the AG's position, and why? What has he done wrong that we are not aware of, and obviously you are?

"Instead in Aus for example, we have an AG who never practised law. Why, because her party placed her in that position and not the parliament itself. Fiji too,has an AG lacking in legal competence. "

It seems you have a problem with the Aust AG Nicola Roxon as well. Go get a life you moron. Nicola is a fine AG and well qualified for the position too, and so is Aiyaz in the Fiji context. You have absolutely no idea of the criteria of ministerial appointments in the democratic society that you claim to live in. Are you currently employed in your democratic country? Do you pay tax, or is it under the table? Has Nicola Roxon revised your unemployment benefits? Bludger !!!!!!!!! Living off tax payers !!! Cheat!!!

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