The ELECTORAL DECREE 2014 (DECREE NO. 11 OF 2014) is finally out, suggesting that voting will be a nightmare for voters.
There will be one national constituency to elect 50 parliamentarians in a proportional system, based on “Open Lists” (another article on that).
Even before the Decree was issued, Bainimarama stated on his campaign trail that voters will choose from 250 candidates from five political parties (presumably with each party putting forward 50 candidates).
But the Schedule at the end of the Electoral Decree 2014 indicates the possibility of 280 candidates (presumably also allowing for 30 Independents).
The Decree expects that the voter will face one massive ballot paper, with 280 squares, with each square having a number, name of candidate and photo (the Decree says nothing about a party symbol to go with the candidate).
The numbers, between 135 and 414, will be randomly allocated to the candidates.
In the polling booth, the voter will have to locate his/her preferred candidate, and circle, tick or cross the one square, out of these 280 squares.
The voting nightmare
There are hundreds of thousands of voters throughout Fiji, who may have great difficulty in finding their preferred candidate on such a large ballot paper with 280 names and numbers.
Some political parties or candidates might quite sensibly think that they could help their supporters to take a small piece of paper, with the number of their preferred candidate written down.
But sorry, Section 52 (2) of the Electoral Decree states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to bring into a polling station or polling venue any type of paper or any specimen or sample of a ballot paper or any card or instruction on how to vote.”
Section 52 (3) then warns voters,
“If the Supervisor or presiding officer has reasonable suspicion that a voter is in breach of subsection (2), he or she may request the assistance of a police officer to search the voter, and it shall be lawful for a police officer to take such measures as necessary to conduct a search of the voter.”
A decent law-abiding citizen of this country, exercising his or her right to make an informed choice in the election by taking a piece of paper into the polling booth to help him or her to vote, can be searched, on suspicion, like a common criminal?
AND FURTHERMORE, if any such material is found on them, Section 52 (4) further warns,
“Any person who contravenes this section commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or to both.
What sorts of serious crime does Fiji’s justice system hand out such horrendous punishment?
The contemptuous charade continues
But we should not be surprised any more by this Bainimarama/Khaiyum Regime’s antics.
For this is an unelected military dictatorship, which removed a lawfully elected government in 2006, and ruled us without our permission and without anyone voting for them, for eight whole years.
They have unilaterally imposed unlawful decree after decree on us, culminating in the 2013 Bainimarama/Khaiyum Constitution, which promises them and their collaborators, total immunity for any crime they may have committed from 2000 to elections in 2014.
But they threaten decent law-abiding voters that if they innocently take a piece of paper into the polling booth to help them vote for their preferred candidate for the first time in eight years, they may be fined $50,000 and jailed for 10 years.
It would be a joke, if it was not such a nightmare.
This Regime has ignored all recommendations from political parties and the general public for far more sensible, understandable, and workable proportional electoral systems (such as local constituencies with a small number of candidates, who voters could easily identify with and choose from).
Instead, through the advice of a secret scheming cabal of shadowy collaborators, this Bainimarama Regime has thrust this electoral nightmare on our people through this Electoral Decree 2014.
All that the freedom loving people of Fiji and other political parties can do is grit their teeth and see where peaceful participation in this pathetic electoral charade takes them.
Addendum: some sick jokes
Joke 1: what if voters simply write their candidate’s number on some hidden part of their body, which they can look at, inside the privacy of the polling booth? Will all voters be strip-searched by the police?
There are lots of other sick jokes in the 2014 Electoral Decree.
Joke 2 : from the Decree, section 115 states:
Restrictions on campaigns
115.—(1) Following the announcement of the date of the election, it shall be unlawful for any person, entity or organisation (including any person employed or engaged by any such person, entity or organisation) that receives any funding or assistance from a foreign government, inter-governmental or non-governmental organisation or multilateral agency to engage in, participate in or conduct any campaign (including organising debates, public forum, meetings, interviews, panel discussions, or publishing any material) that is related to the election or any election issue or matter.
Not only can CFF, FWRM, WCC, and other NGOs forget these educational activities after the announcement of the date of elections, but so also can The University of the South Pacific, which is partly funded by “foreign governments” (no doubt to the relief of their Vice Chancellor and Chairman of Council).
Section 63 (2) (d) states that in the In the 48 hour period prior to polling day and on the polling day until the close of polling at all polling stations, it is strictly prohibited for any person to--
”distribute in any manner (including through telephone, internet, email, social media or other electronic means) any campaign material or communicate political messages, including calls to vote for or against a particular political party or candidate in the election.
Does this Decree effectively gives the Bainimarama Regime the draconian authority to monitor all our phone calls, emails, and Internet usage, and conduct electronic surveillance on citizens that infringes on their basic human right to privacy?
Section 113 Prohibition on use of State resources to campaign
(1) It shall be unlawful to use State authority, including law and tax enforcement authorities, to pressure or intimidate political opposition.
(2) It shall be unlawful for any public officer to conduct campaign activities.
But of course, there is some Decree which states that Bainimarama and his other unelected Ministers are not “public officers”, and they will be allowed to remain in office, handing out goodies all around the country (of course, not buying any votes) and maligning any “old politician” they want (except those in his own gang).
Section 27 (2) the nomination of an independent candidate is not valid unless it is accompanied by
(b) signatures of at least 1,000 registered voters as supporters; and
(c) ) contain the full names, residential addresses, occupation and voter numbers of the supporters.
So for poor Independent candidates, forget the principle of the “secrecy of the ballot box” and who are going to vote for you. The Regime and other political parties will know exactly who are your supporters, who they can target in whatever way they want.
Just as they can target the 5000 persons who sign up as “supporters” of political parties.