Open List Voting: Dr Veramu on What Suits Fiji

Amnesty International consultant Dr Joseph Veramu
By this time next year, the result of the much-anticipated September, 2014 general elections would have been determined  – along with the efficiency of the one-day poll.
So what can we expect when we go to the polling booth next year? “What will the ballot paper look like in September 2014?” some are asking.

Last week, Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that drafting specialists will be in Fiji by next month to begin work on rules and regulations for the elections. This is expected to be made public by the end of the year.

Here, we take a look at what the ballot paper may look like. Civic education specialist, Dr Joseph Veramu provides two examples of what he thinks might be suited for Fiji.

Parliament numbers
The constitution makes clear that a 50 member Parliament  will be elected from a single national constituency. We know that an “open” list rather than a “closed” list system of voting will be based on proportional representation meaning that parliamentary seats are based on the proportion of valid votes that a party gets.“In open list balloting, voters (NOT the political parties) choose the order of preferences of candidates. “The Constitution does not mention“preferential” voting which allows for flexibility in open list voting.”

Dr Veramu said the two models presented here are well suited to Fiji’s single national constituency since they will result in a truly proportional result.

Model 1
“The ballot paper for the first model will have all the parties registered to participate in the elections together with their respective lists of 50 candidates (listed in the party’s preferential order.)
“The voter votes for a party and may choose one candidate on that same party’s candidates list.
“While the votes received by the party determines the number of seats it gets in Parliament, the votes for candidates determines the order in which they receive seats allocated for the party.
Dr Veramu said this limited open list is widely used in Brazil, Colombia, Finland, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden. (Although a “limited” open list system, it is nevertheless still an open list.)

Model 2
“The second model would have the names of all parties and their 50 candidates listed under them.
“The candidates’ lists’ (provided by the parties) will be ‘open’ in the sense that they are not priority or preferential lists in the order of selection to Parliament.
“They are alphabetical lists or random lists,” he said.
“Parties could be allowed to automatically select their party leader and deputy party leader.
“However in the event that a party wins three or more seats, the third seat would be chosen (from the list of 50 candidates) in terms of gender or multicultural or geographical representation.
“The Electoral Commission may at its discretion make a determination whether the name of the third successful candidate (and any successful additions that a Party gets) are based on the criteria provided.”

Disadvantages
“More and more people are expressing an interest in standing in the September 2014 elections.
“Social media like facebook is crowded with people who have become unusually friendly due to their upcoming candidature.”

Dr Veramu said this may mean a ballot paper looking like a table cloth if there is a kind of “free for all”. He said this could be alleviated if all candidates were asked to deposit say $10,000 each with forfeiture if they do not  receive one percent of the ballots.
“In one European country, voters can ask only for the ballot paper of the party they wish to vote for, rather than the whole “table cloth” list.”

Advantages
Dr Veramu said in both models, seats are apportioned fairly between parties according to the numbers of valid votes they win.
“Fiji voters have the ability to override parties’ preferential lists.
“This gives voters more say over who is elected and thus result in the election process being seen as more legitimate.”

Based on a story  by  Rosi Doviverata  in the Fiji Sun.
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Dr Joseph Veramu studied at the London South Bank University (MSc) and the University of the South Pacific (MPhil & PhD). He has worked for the Commonwealth Youth Program SPRC, University of the South Paciic and the United Nations Development Program. Dr Veramu's interests are in learning, knowledge creation, ICT, governance and sustainable development

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