17 Jan 2006

Fiji Electoral Commission rejects alleged registration problems

2:26 pm on 17 January 2006

Fiji's Electoral Commission has rejected allegations of serious irregularities in voter registration for this year's general elections.

The allegations have been made by several political parties based on the registration completed until last month which show a huge rise in the number of indigenous Fijian voters and a dramatic decline in the number of ethnic Indian and other voters.

The voters registered so far include 255,000 indigenous Fijians, 165,00 ethnic Indians, 5,000 Rotumans and 10,000 others or general voters.

Fiji's military commander brought up the concerns in yesterday's peace talks with the prime minister which were mediated by the acting president, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

The Electoral Commission says for several months there has been a whisper campaign by some individuals and civil society groups of a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise Indo-Fijian voters, false registrations and systematic corruption.

The Commission chairman, Graham Leung, has issued a statement saying denying the allegations which, he says, are unsubstantiated.

He says it is dangerous to assume from the number of voters registered so far that there has been a deliberate attempt to under-register any group or groups.

Mr Leung says a large number of Indo-Fijians have migrated since the last elections and in the absence of a recent census, it is unwise to make a assumptions about the racial breakdown of voters in any given constituency.

Mr Leung says the Commission has found no evidence of unlawful or improper practices in the Elections Office.

But he says the Electoral Commission has instructed the Supervisor of Elections to take urgent steps to ensure that more Indo-Fijian and General voters are registered.

Mr Leung says if the public, including political parties, have any specific and credible evidence of illegality or wrongdoing, they should provide that evidence to the Commission and the police.