Fiji couple allege courier pressure on vote
Questions have been raised about Fiji's election processes after an alleged incident involving a Suva couple being forced to vote a certain way on day one of pre-polling.
An alleged incident on day one of pre-polling for Fiji's election has been referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Almost 66,000 people have been asked to cast their votes prior to the September 17th election date, although late notice about pre-polling has caught many voters by surprise.
Amid the confusion an elderly couple in Suva filed a complaint that they were pressured to vote against their wishes.
Johnny Blades has more:
The couple had qualified for postal voting whereby ballot papers are delivered by the courier company DHL. They claim the courier who brought their papers attempted to force them to vote for the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama against their wishes. The couple subsequently lodged a complaint at the electoral office, and have been interviewed by police. Fiji's Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem has confirmed that his office has been made aware of the incident, but expressed frustration that the complainant didn't provide documentation.
MOHAMMED SANEEM: Very uncooperative with us. However having received very little information about the incident, just finding out that there is a possibility that there might be a breach of the electoral decree, we have referred the matter to FICAC (Fiji's Independent Commission Against Corruption) and FICAC will be taking necessary actions on this, and I understand that the matter is being investigated by the investigating authorities.
The Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry has questioned the role of couriers in the election. He says postal votes are supposed to be sent out by post.
MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY: But now it's being couriered to them and then strangely enough the courier company employee is telling them they have to do it (voting) there and then, then give it back to them, instead of leaving it with them and letting them send it by post or other means to the returning officer. For the courier company employee to be marking the ballot paper himself, that's an offence clearly.
Mr Chaudhry says it is also dubious that the matter has been referred to Fiji's Independent Commission Against Corruption.
MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY: This is how things have been organised here by the regime. Instead of police taking charge of any prosecutions for offences under the Electoral Act, it's been given to FICAC. And of course we all know that FICAC is another agency of the regime. They've never investigated the regime, even though reports have been made to it of corrupt practices. So we know that FICAC is not likely to take any action in the matter. And this is why it was given the responsibility, it has nothing to do with the electoral process.
Several political parties have complained that the prepolling plan was sprung on them, hampering their campaigns and election scrutineering plans. An international election specialist, Andrew Ladley, says the practice of early voting before a general election is common around the world.
ANDREW LADLEY: The normal mechanism in democracies is that it's advised very well in advance, everything is transparent, there's no surprises, it's announced months often years in advance in legislation when precisely pre-polling or advanced voting can take place, and there's no surprise, there's lots of communication. Where things are done without communication, a suspicion emerges.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Saneem has urged the public to provide adequate information for any further complaints.
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