Despite problems, Vanuatu is set for its snap elections
Despite problems, Vanuatu is set for its snap elections.
The chair of Vanuatu's electoral commission says ghost names on the electoral roll continue to be a problem and there have been reports of ballot boxes being moved, but he is confident Friday's snap election will be largely problem-free.
John Taleo told Jamie Tahana his office's ten staff have only had a month to organise the election with little funding after the president, Baldwin Lonsdale, dissolved parliament following the jailing of 14 MPs in December.
JOHN TALEO: We are not expecting this snap election, so by law the snap election must be held not later than 30 days and not later than 60 days of the dissolution of parliament. So in fact the time frame is very, very limited and we were rushing and on top of that we have a lack of staff that is why it has been extremely, extremely been very hard time for the electoral commission, the electoral office to conduct this snap election. However one of the thing that I am impressed is that we managed to put everything in place. We have 18 constituencies in Vanuatu. So we managed to deployed all the ballot boxes to all the 350 polling stations around in Vanuatu. We managed to get a patrol boat from Solomon Islands. Now the other thing that we actually chartered a flight was from Port Vila to Tafea province. Now one of the things that we are arranging at the moment is for the presiding officers they have to understand how to move from the polling stations to polling stations. That is one of the, because the transportation system in the islands is very, very bad and we hope that the weather will not stop any polling station around somewhere in Vanuatu.
JAMIE TAHANA: Have you encountered any problem with the election? There's reports of some ballot boxes being moved there's also been problems highlighted with the electoral roll and stuff. Have you encountered any challenges with this election?
TALEO: Yea the challenges is, there is a confusion between 18 years of age to cast their vote. Now the challenges is like they were complaining that electoral office neglected those 18 years and over to cast their vote. This is totally wrong because the electoral roll was established in 2015. Now if you turn 18 years of age from July to the 21st of January 2016 you are not allowed to vote. It is simple like if you have a card you can vote if you don't have a card you can't vote. So these are the unfortunate teenagers that they will not cast their vote. Now the report says that from 2012 to 2020 they will only cast their vote this is wrong. One thing that let me stress here is that people they don't understand they don't listen to the awareness. Most importantly is registration and voting is not compulsory in Vanuatu. When it comes to an election people were rushing but the time frame was there they don't understand that so that is why the challenges for this election is to do with the electoral roll. Now why we do that is because we were expecting that the 2016 general election will be held in November or October this year however the snap election cut short the election that is why these unfortunate youth turning 18 will not be allowed to cast their vote tomorrow.
TAHANA: This confusion still nonetheless still came about. Could that have been better communicated?
TALEO: Yes the confusion is there but we managed to go through the media and also the newspaper to tell them that you still have an opportunity.
TAHANA: There have been problems, some dead people are still on the electoral rolls and there is also cases of ballot boxes being moved and stuff. Is this widespread and how concerning is it?
TALEO: Yes it is very concerning to the electoral office because you have to understand that to computerise the system for example we are heading towards the biometric system unfortunately we cannot get through because of the funding. So that is why we still have some duplicate names in the electoral roll. We still have dead people existing. Now the law does not allow somebody to come in and tell the electoral office that my father died or my mum died or my sister died, remove them from the electoral list. You are not allowed to do that you have to go to court to confirm from the death certificate that this guy actually died. So this is an issue that we were trying to solve the problem as soon as possible. Now the other thing is that a lot of Vanuatu people they use fake names. Like someone when I check the electoral roll his name is different from his passports name so we have the problem here people use fake names for them to be able to travel overseas because of sometimes you have suspended sentence in the court or sometimes you have problem with your names and so on that is why they used another name. So to tell you the truth yes I agree with those foreign observer that the population of Vanuatu is 200 thousand plus but the electoral roll still have two zero zero one five nine 200159 is the registered, the total registered voters which is there are some duplicates and there are some dead people that still exist in the electoral roll.
TAHANA: You mentioned the candidates, how have they been campaigning, are you satisfied, I mean there have been cases of some of the jailed MP's trying to register themselves but they have been struck off now though. Has it been a clean fair campaign from what you have seen?
TALEO: Yes it is fair campaign and there is a lot of criticism and a lot of and you know we learn from that. But as far as the electoral commission is concerned we are satisfied with the campaigning period and we also hope that the lesson is learnt from here for the people to choose the right leader move Vanuatu forward.
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