Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Pre-Polling: Not a Good Start

Opinion by Crosbie Walsh
Pre-Polling is causing problems that seem to be due to the tight schedule and the late announcement of pre-polling stations, situations that could have been avoided had the Electoral Decree and Constitution set more realistic targets that allowed for electoral processes to take longer than expected. The legislation apparently made no allowance for exigencies such as the need for the Electoral Office to visit some of the 500-odd prospective polling venues, or for their need to be in Court answering appeals and objections to the candidate list, both of which were very time consuming activities.

Overall, the Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission have done remarkably  good jobs. It is only in the short one week time frame, between the announcement of pre-poll venues and the start of pre-polling, that the the Electoral Office has fallen short. Given the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see that a much longer period was  needed.

Some of Government's opponents have accused Government and the Electoral Office of leading people to believe that all voting would be done on one day. It is true that one day voting was frequently mentioned, but the three modes of voting —pre-poll, postal and the September 17th one day poll— were publicized by the Electoral Office weeks ago. It appeared in the media, on TV and the radio. If some people still thought that all voting would take place on September 17th, the fault lies less with the Electoral Office than the political parties and the media for not informing them otherwise.

Whatever the cause, Fiji has to live with the outcome.  Political parties will not have been able to canvass in several pre-polling areas, most particularly in the islands of the Lau Group where pre-polling has already commenced and where only one day is available for voting.  Similarly, people registered to pre-poll in these areas who are not there will have missed the opportunity to vote.

I asked an informant what measures are now being taken by the Electoral Office to inform people of the day they are to pre-poll
(or days, for some venues are open for more than one day). He told me radio stations are being used to make the announcements, turaga ni koro have been informed, and DOS offices and the local churches are being asked to inform people in these areas. At the pre-polling venues, it is also likely Electoral Office personnel will be active in informing people.

Another informant (and this I find hard to believe)  told me that some candidates did not know that some voters could pre-poll:

" 'What *@!!##* is pre-poling???" quoth he, with much exasperation (as were we all). All I could suggest is that in most overseas countries, pre-poling usually refers to absentee voting  and I urged him to ask his party's leadership what on earth it meant."

To summarise, the Electoral Office should have announced pre-polling venues much earlier. The late announcement has penalised all political parties who have been unable to canvass, and some pre-voters will not be able to vote. The Electoral Office is now making every effort to inform people in pre-polling areas of the day, or days, on which they should vote, and with 12 pre-polling days left, most people will have been told in time. But some candidates, and possibly some parties, did not know anything about pre-polling, and they should have known. Even with venues unannounced, they could have canvassed in likely venues such as the main islands in the northern Lau Group.  

I'm sure those opposed to Government and FijiFirst will say the pre-polling fiaso is a deliberate act to confuse.  I don't so.  A sufficient explanation is found in people working under stress within a short timeframe.

We will not know how many voters will ultimately have been affected until election day, September 17th, when the pre-poll votes will be counted. But with somewhere between 50 and 66,000 registered pre-voters, it could be a substantial number.  And to this extent the 2014 Election has not got off to a good start.


  1. I think it reflects the arrogance of the AG who refused to include opposition parties in any discussion on the decree and has constantly claimed everything about every election before is bad and everything about his one is good. And the court case....well the AG has drafted and released decrees over night before, he could have put one out in no time to allow the extra hours required for the SoE to receive outcomes from the EC. A fair outcome but he did not because he wanted his candidate in and labours out. Outrageous and will tarnish FijiFirsts win at this election.

  2. Of course Croz, its everyone else's fault except the governments - after all they've only had 8 years to think about it. No doubt you will find the evil hand of the Methodists in there somewhere, perhpas even the long reach of the GCC?

  3. How many times have we heard the PM and AG go on and in about this being a one day election and dismissing any thought that might be impossible, then at the last min we have this mess......

  4. Conspiracy theories may well abound but conceivably the govt is also depriving themselves of votes - will be interesting to see if this 'hiccup' extends across the entire country.

  5. Never mind these technical glitches. Front page of the Sun today gives the most profound reason these elections haven't got off to a good start. Bainimarama is reported to have said "...If I had known that they will promote racist policies, I should have called off the election..."

    If accurately reported, what a cretinous, unthinking remark that was. It has the potential to put the wind up potential investors who might now feel if Fiji First doesn't get elected he will instigate another coup. It has the potential to create fear amongst voters that if they don't vote for him, their vote will be worthless.

    It is a ridiculous and despicable comment that does him and his party a grave disservice and one which is almost undoubtedly in contravention of his own decrees regarding the behaviour of politicians.

    1. What is wrong with the great leader's statement. He is deeply concerned that the racists in SODELPA and FLP will force the RFMF to make its recruitments more reflective of the ethnic composition of the general population. The racists will incite the population against the great AG. Already we see this in the blogs.

    2. Looks like some support racist policies. Racist policies will bring in a lot of investors. What has Australia and New Zealand have to say about these policies? Do they support them? I'd like to know how they feel about this. They could also see Fiji as an experiment. See what are the outcomes and wether they can learn from these. If the Fiji military was there to engage the enemy they would have and not surrendered. So the AG is a smart fellow. I think that's a good thing..who wants a dumb ass AG. This guy backs up himself good. Bainimarama is a strong leader. We need him.

    3. Who cares what Australia and NZ say about the policies? What the Fiji voters say is the only important thing. We don't need any cosmopolitan nation dictating what is and isn't correct for the Fiji people anymore than we need a self appointed interim prime minister doing so.

      If the Fiji people elect Bainimarama then good luck to him and I hope he's a success. If they chose not to, then he should accept that and wait for the ramifications like a man - not try to pre-empt the outcome by issuing barely veiled threats and dark warnings about what he might or might not do. This election is not 'his' to give or take away.

  6. The dictator Bainimarama and the Fiji military under the current terribly poor leadership are an utter disgrace to the nation of Fiji.

  7. Croz
    I like Bainimarama's coup. It has converted so many of my countryman; including all these guys who are bitching, into such great defenders of democracy. I wonder where they all were during the other coups; probably busy feeding their snouts from the national (read-nationalist itaukei Fijian) feedlot. Nothing like a kick on the arse to turn them into opportunistic democrats. They will be back in their true racist colors next month in the unlikely event that Madam Kepa and her racist party wins.

    1. Many have not pledged to defend democracy as you state but rather they are defenders of their land and way of life. The opportunistic ones are those who are holding on to Bainimarama's tailcoats and making a killing out of this.

  8. Pre -polling was indicated to be for the purpose of allowing emergency workers to vote, presumably to undertake this there could have been polling stations at every district office to cater for nurses, doctors and other workers not available due to work commitments.

    At a candidates briefing provided by the Electoral Office, we were not briefed about pre-polling at all. It was if it did not exist. There is no literature provided by the elections office in regard to pre-polling.

    There are 393 pre-polling stations at 500 voters per polling station this represents 176,500 voters. It was reported that on the first day 7,000 people cast their votes out of a possible 39,500 registered voters in 79 polling stations. This represents a turn out of 17.7%.

    The elections office is no longer publishing results, but have made the statement that voter turn out is now around 75%.



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