Signs Nauru is putting more clamps on democracy
Nauru has reportedly changed its electoral laws which critics say will make it harder to compete against the government.
A former Nauru justice minister says the government has amended electoral laws which further undermine democracy on the island.
Mathew Batsiua, who is one of five opposition members suspended from parliament for nearly two years, says changes will make it harder for many people to stand.
Nauru is required to hold elections by the middle of this year.
Earlier this year, the government, which completely dominates the parliament after it suspended most of the opposition, ruled that public servants wanting to stand had to resign three months before the poll.
Now it has hiked candidacy fees 20-fold.
Our enquiries to the Nauru government for an explanation go unanswered but Mr Batsiua says it is clear what the intent is.
He spoke with Don Wiseman and began by explaining what they had heard in the locally broadcast coverage of the parliamentary sitting.
MATHEW BATSIUA: We haven't got a copy of the Act but the information that we have so far is that there are three main changes. One is to establish an electoral commission and that electoral commission will basically be in charge of elections and I think that is quite reasonable. But as I said we don't know the details so we will reserve judgment on that until we see the Act. The second change is to increase the fees for candidates who are looking to run in future elections from the former one hundred dollars to now two thousand dollars. And the third main change that they have put in is increasing the transfer fees for voters wishing to transfer from one electorate to another from 10 dollars to now 150 dollars. So that is a massive jump as well. Those increasing fees are further attacks on the rights of people to stand as candidates. We believe it is just another evidence of this government trying to rig the outcome of future elections in Nauru so they can retain their seats and they are going out of they are going out of their way to make it difficult for others to challenge their incumbency.
DON WISEMAN: In terms of these increased costs who do you think they are specifically aimed at?
MB: You put these two things together they make sure that people have to resign three months out so people are out of employment. So potential candidates new candidates who are fed up with the corruption and the mismanagement in the economy of this government. Who are now contemplating to stand will be greatly disadvantaged. Because they will be out of work effectively for three months without any salaries and now this 2000 dollar candidate fee will be out of reach for most people. So it is a direct attack on new candidates, women candidates, new candidates who are trying to challenge this government because they are not satisfied with the way that they are running the country the way they are managing the economy and just the corrupt behaviour that is happening left right and center.
DW: There had been this expectation that within these electoral changes that they would also make it impossible for the suspended MPs to sit again. They haven't done that or they haven't done that yet.
MB: Yes that is correct. It is not in the Electoral Act that was passed yesterday but we have reason to believe that it is still very much on the cards and could be implemented in future legislation.
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