1 Dec 2016

Opposition parties in Fiji welcome court ruling on poll rules

4:21 pm on 1 December 2016

Opposition parties in Fiji have welcomed a court decision on election rules and the authority of the country's Electoral Commission.

Voters queue at John Wesley College in Fiji

Voters queue at John Wesley College in Fiji Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

The Sodelpa party said the Court of Appeal's judgment bodes well for the next elections in 2018.

Sodelpa said the ruling clarified the authority of the commission whose directive in 2014 on the eligibility of candidates for the polls that year was ruled out of time by the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem.

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Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

The Court of Appeal overturned an earlier High Court ruling in favour of Mr Saneem and declared a midnight deadline for objecting to a proposed candidate instead of the 4pm limit as earlier argued by Mr Saneem.

It also declared the supervisor had to comply with the commission's decisions.

In light of the ruling Sodelpa has called for the commission to review Mr Saneem's appointment as he says it comes on top of recent impartial behaviour.

Fiji SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka

Fiji SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka Photo: AFP

Sodelpa's leader Sitiveni Rabuka said the ruling was timely.

"We are concerned that the Supervisor made submissions earlier this year to the Parliamentary Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights, that he be allowed by law not to follow directives of the Commission.

"This is an affront to our growing democracy, where a Constitutional Officer has requested the right to defy the body that is envisaged to set the policy and direction of his office," said Mr Rabuka.

The National Federation Party said the ruling validated the concerns of opposition parties.

The National Federation Party MP Tupou Draunidalo.

The National Federation Party MP Tupou Draunidalo. Photo: RNZ / Sally Round

It has reiterated its call for the role of elections minister to be taken away from Aiyaz-Sayed Khaiyum who supported Mr Saneem at the time.

The NFP said he has conflicting roles.

"The fact that the Minister for Elections and the General Secretary of Fiji First was publicly commenting on the case, supporting the decision of the Supervisor and even suggesting that the Electoral Commission take legal advice from his own chief legal advisor, the Solicitor-General, was extraordinary and totally inappropriate," said NFP President Tupou Draunidalo.

"The Prime Minister should retake the responsibility of elections and ensure that that responsibility is for merely administrative purposes like that of all previous Prime Ministers."

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum earlier denied any conflict of interest as elections minister.

The elections office has told Fiji media the court decision does not affect the outcome of the election and it's taking legal advice on whether to appeal.