The Italian Job: Cunning resignation to become Parliamentary Speaker
Saturday, May 23, 2015
AN election petition filed by the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum objecting to the decision of the Electoral Commission to elect Mikaele Leawere as a member of Parliament was called for the first time before Justice David Alfred in the High Court in Suva yesterday.
The petition was filed last Wednesday by the Attorney-General in the Court of Disputed Returns against the Electoral Commission and Mr Leawere, a SODELPA MP.
Devanesh Sharma appeared for the petitioner, the Attorney-General while Virisila Lidise appeared for the first respondent, the Electoral Commission, and Jon Apted appeared for Mr Leawere who was the second respondent.
The petition seeks a determination that the Electoral Commission erred in law in awarding a vacant parliamentary seat to Mr Leawere, who was the SODELPA candidate with the highest number of votes in the September 2014 General Election, and who was not a member of Parliament.
The seat was vacated when SODELPA MP Ratu Viliame Tagivetaua died on March 5 this year and the commission subsequently awarded the seat to Mr Leawere on May 5.
Under section 64 of the Constitution, when a seat of a member from a political party becomes vacant, the Commission must award the seat to the candidate of the same party who in the past general election is the highest ranked of the candidates who did not get elected to Parliament and who is available to serve.
Mr Leawere was the highest ranked SODELPA candidate who was not a member of Parliament
The Attorney-General alleges that the Commission should not have awarded the seat to Mr Leawere because he was a public officer by virtue of being employed by a trade union when the vacancy arose, and when he advised the Electoral Commission that he was available to take the seat.