Fiji Constitutional Forum confident in Electoral Commission
Fiji Constitutional Forum says it has confidence the Electoral Commission is doing what it can to ensure free and fair elections in September
The Citizen's Constitutional Forum in Fiji says it is confident the Electoral Commission is doing all it can to ensure people are able to exercise their right to vote in September.
The organisation was among several non government groups which met the Commission this week to get an update on the Electoral Decree which will set the parameters for the election this year.
There has been concern in Fiji over the time taken to release the details but the head of the forum, Akuila Yabaki, says the Commission is just trying to ensure the elections are free and fair.
AKULA YABAKI: The Electoral Commission, I have confidence in them. They are people with credibility, I'm quite appreciative of the work they do and the calibre. There's some confidence there that they will do the best, with all the limitations that we have, the media, the decrees, the supervising of elections not being there, we can say that these people will try and rest as much opportunity for free and fair elections as we could.
SALLY ROUND: Now the Electoral Decree is not out, obviously we're waiting for that to come through. And the Electoral Commission has said they're partly responsible for that delay because they've been questioning and as you say, there has been two rounds of going backwards and forwards. So do you know what they're concerned about with the Decree? Did they let know what those concerns were to you?
AY: Well I think the staffing of the poll on the day, they have a lot to say about that, and the limitations given to police. It's about trying to get more space, free space, for people to exercise their right to vote and push back any kind of interference superimposed by the government in power. I think they're battling against that.
SR: So the delay is not concerning to you because they're trying to get this free space?
AY: I think so. In order to get a free and fair election, as much as possible. You see, the overseas governments aren't so much interested in the credibility of it, but because you need a parliament so that they can engage with Fiji as an ordinary sovereign state. But we did a parliament for that to happen, so things can get back to normal. The responsibility to achieve a credible election and therefore parliament within the limitations we have, that's upon the people, that's the responsibility of the people. Now, the role of the civil society, and the Electoral Commission, we support the Electoral Commission to make that as possible as it can be.
SR: Ok, and now your next step is to go out and do more civic education or you're already doing that?
AY: We're already doing that. In some places, they haven't got the government constitution, so we help the community to find places where they can get it. Helping people to be informed about their own rights in relation to the constitution, which is the basis for the election.
SR: How many people do you think have not seen the constitution? Any ideas?
AY: I think many people would have. There are about 500,000 voters who registered, but the registration took place before the constitution, you get me, it was back to front kind of thing. They need now to know about the Electoral Decree, because that provides a framework in which they will exercise their right to vote.
SR: And just finally, is there going to be enough time do you think?
AY: Well, we're battling against time, right from the word go. Because it's supposed to be here last month, and then this month, and it's likely to be the end of the month. Now there's a party that's going to be put in place on the 22nd of April.
SR: That's the Bainimarama party?
AY: Yes, by the end of April, that's four months before the election.
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