Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Suffrage reality check – prisoners still can’t vote

Political Roundup: Suffrage reality check – prisoners still can’t vote

by Dr Bryce Edwards.

Dr Bryce Edwards.

Yesterday marked 125 years to the day since women first voted in a New Zealand General Election. However, celebrations received a reality check when an inconvenient truth resurfaced in a new campaign – the fact that not all New Zealand women have suffrage, because prisoners are still denied the right to participate in elections. 

The campaign to give the vote to prisoners has been launched by the justice reform campaign group, JustSpeak, which has started a new petition: Right to Vote for All. The petition, which includes an open letter to Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, currently has around 200 signatories.

Here’s the key message: “We believe that in a fair and democratic society all members should have the right to vote, and people living in prisons are part of our society. They are valued members of communities and families. To take away their right to vote is an unfair disenfranchisement.”

In conjunction with this new campaign, two very compelling videos have been released that deal with suffrage issues and voting. Yesterday, the first video about women in prison not being able to vote was launched: Can’t: the NZ women still unable to vote, 125 years after suffrage.

And today, the second in the series “examines some of the many and complex reasons why, after 125 years of women’s suffrage, so many women don’t vote” – see: Don’t: the NZ women still not voting, 125 years after suffrage.

To accompany these videos, the Spinoff website is also running a series of articles on prisoners’ suffrage. The most important one for explaining the arguments in favour of prisoners being able to enrol and vote is by JustSpeak’s Tania Sawicki Mead and Ashelsha Sawant – see: To call ourselves a truly representative democracy, this voting law must change.

Looking at the current law that bans prisoners from voting, they say: “It’s the worst kind of anti-democratic law – harsh, disproportionate and fundamentally at odds with the idea that human rights belong to all of us.” And they also point out that New Zealand is an outlier in this regard: “Most democracies around the world either allow prisoners to vote or have recently reinstated their right to do so. New Zealand lags behind in comparison as one of the handful of countries who still have a blanket ban.”

For a poignant argument in favour of prisoner voting, it’s worth reading a very personal account from Awatea Mita, who has spent time in prison – see: A society that denies the incarcerated a vote is a society stamping on human rights. She argues: “Rehabilitation as a safe, responsible, and productive member of an egalitarian society must include the most basic right of the democratic process — the right to participate in choosing who governs, the right to vote. There is research that shows an association between civic engagement, such as being able to vote, and the reduction of offending.”

The role of the Supreme court in suffrage rights

The campaign for reform has been given a massive boost by the landmark New Zealand Supreme Court declaration earlier this month that the ban on prisoners voting – passed in 2010 as the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act – is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. This is best covered by Sam Hurley in his news report, Supreme Court upholds decision saying ban on prisoner voting inconsistent with Bill of Rights.

This report quotes Justice Paul Heath, who made the decision in order to “draw to the attention of the New Zealand public that Parliament has enacted legislation inconsistent with a fundamental right”.

The article provides some history of the ban on prisoner voting in New Zealand. It also, interestingly, cites Jacinda Ardern’s strong opposition to the current voting ban, quoting her statements from when she was Labour’s spokesperson on Justice. For example, Ardern said, “This was an arbitrary law and one that is full of contradictions and inconsistencies” and “Parliament has a responsibility to respect fundamental rights for all. The Government now has a responsibility to assure all New Zealanders it understands that”.

For more on the process of the case being brought to the Supreme Court by current prisoner Arthur Taylor, see Alex Baird’s Kiwi prisoners’ right to vote upheld Supreme Court rules. Taylor appeared in the Supreme Court case via audio-video link from prison, and when he won the case, he says there was celebration from his fellow inmates. Taylor says: “Some of them have made me a cake out of biscuits and things they can buy on their purchases, so that was quite nice, the thought’s there anyway”.

Will the Government extend suffrage to prisoners?

The above article also quotes Justice Minister Andrew Little explaining that although the courts had ruled against the ban, he didn’t see it as a priority to correct the error. Instead, he explained that his priority was to fix the judicial-legislative constitution problems caused by the landmark ruling: “The priority is to get in place a process that requires parliament to respond to any declaration made by the courts on inconsistency with the Bill of Rights.”

Elsewhere, Andrew Little has said that, although he personally opposed the ban on prisoner voting rights, he didn’t see it as a “priority” for the current government, and he’s been reported as believing that “Ministers were unlikely to consider the issue for at least a year” – see RNZ’s Youth advocacy group disappointed in govt’s stance on prisoner votes.

This article also reports JustSpeak’s Tania Sawicki Mead’s response that Little’s stance “was hypocritical because in opposition Labour MPs opposed the law change banning voting”. Mead is quoted: “I think it’s a question of how much this basic issue of access to democracy and your fundamental right to participate is a priority to this government or not… I hope that they seriously consider making it a part of their legislative agenda next year.”

Leftwing blogger Martyn Bradbury has reacted with incredulity that the Labour-led Government would essentially oppose returning votes to prisoners, and argues that this decision is based on political pragmatism trumping principles: “Little’s kicked for touch so as to not infuriate NZs easily angered sensible sentencing lynch mob” – see: In just 7 words did Andrew Little demolish real prison reform?

Bradbury explains how the complete ban on prisoner voting came out of the National Party opportunistically playing to a conservative audience, but Labour is now doing the same: “So smart politics to play to the angriest and most easily upset elements off society, but to also shrug off the crucial point that prisoners do have human rights regardless of imprisonment actually cuts to the very heart of the issues Little is attempting to force change on.”

Another blogger, No Right Turn, is also outraged that Labour have decided not to advance a remedy for the problem with urgency: “This is simply not acceptable. When the Supreme Court makes a ruling like this, it should automatically become a priority for Parliament, and should be formally drawn to its attention for a response. The government has already signalled that that is what it wants to do in future, so why won’t it do it in this case? And there’s a pressing need: we’re having an election in 2020, and it would simply be unacceptable given the ruling for prisoners to be unable to vote in it” – see: “Not a priority”.

Furthermore, see his update from yesterday: “in Parliament today the government said that they hadn’t even considered the issue and that it wasn’t a priority for them. Which tells us everything we need to know. This government is not committed to fundamental human rights, and is quite willing to violate them for political profit” – see: Still not their priority.

For the best analysis on the Government’s reluctance to enact universal suffrage, see Gordon Campbell’s On prisoner voting. He points to New Zealand First as the primary barrier to reform.

Here’s Campbell’s main explanation: “Not for the first time, prisoners are being treated as political footballs. Just as the Key government played to the redneck vote back in 2010, Little seems OK about Labour becoming captive to the hardline ‘lock ’em up’ faction that exists within New Zealand First. Earlier this year, Little had been blindsided by NZF leader Winston Peters when Labour tried to scrap the “Three Strikes” legislation. Rather than risk losing a similar fight, Little now seems gun-shy about fighting at all on this issue.”

On the question of whether fixing the problem should be a priority, Campbell says this should be obvious: “Centre-left governments used to think that the rights of prisoners shouldn’t be sacrificed to indulge the desire for societal revenge. I’d also have thought that – when you’re the Justice Minister – defending section 12 of our Bill of Rights should be a priority.”

There is now a chance that the Government might be pressured to give the vote back to prisoners, with the Green Party launching their own campaign yesterday – see Henry Cooke’s Green Party makes call for law change to allow prisoners the right to vote.

According to this, the Green Party’s Justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman “is asking Justice Minister Andrew Little to prioritise the change, but legislation would be needed, so NZ First would need to get onboard. The party has not ruled out attempting the change as a members’ bill.”

Finally, when we think about extending the electoral franchise, perhaps we need to think about lowering the qualifying age as well. Today, Azaria Howell has made the case for it being two years lower – see: Make it 16: a teenager on why we should lower the voting age.

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Fiji women have confidence that their gender in politics will hear their voices

SODELPA’s Lynda Tabuya … “breath of fresh air” in Fiji politics. Image: Wikimedia Commons

By Koroi Tadulala in Suva

The role of women in every segment of society is vital and this is slowly been reflected through more women contesting political spaces in Fiji.

This year recorded the highest number of women contesting the country’s general election compared to previous elections – and also the highest number elected.

The new 51-seat Parliament includes 10 women, five in government and five in the opposition.

READ MORE: 2018 Fiji elections – the ‘fake news’ catchphrase of this ballot but beware

The highest polling woman, SODELPA’s Lynda Tabuya – a talented lawyer and former beauty queen described by media as a “breath of fresh air”, being the fifth highest of the successful MPs.

Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni says this the success of women is “wonderful news” and she is expected to continue as Speaker.

-Partners-

A total of 56 women from all 6 political parties contested this year hoping to represent women and their issues in political debate.

Amelia Qalituraga, 40, of Banaras Lautoka, is delighted that more women stood for election despite politics being a male-dominated field in this country.

Grassroots support
While casting her vote last Wednesday, she expressed hope that women in Parliament would be able to help out women at grassroots level, especially over the minimum wage rate.

“Working as a cleaner at the rate of $2.70 an hour hasn’t been any easy for me and my family,” she says.

“Na veika ga keimami kerea jiko vei ira na marama era na curu I Palimedi me ra rogoci keimami kei na neimami gagadre,” she added. (The only thing we want from women representatives is to listen to our needs and voices.)

With the rise in sexual assault and rape cases victimising women, Qalituraga hopes that women in Parliament will be able to make a change.

“Na levu ni sexual assault kei na rape sa yaco tu ni kua, au sa vavinavinaka saraga ni na rawa ni rogoci na neimami gagadre.” (With the rise in sexual assault and rape cases against women, I believe that women in political spaces will be able to listen to our concerns now).

Krishneel Vikash Chand, a 21-year-old student at the University of Fiji, says “only a woman will be able to understand the needs of other women and their issues”.

“I think it’s good to have more women in politics because it gives women more empowerment,” he adds.

Better represented
Chand says the idea of women being part of the decision making process would allow women to be better represented and ensure their voices are heard.

Despite the positive response from most people about women competing in political spaces,  some prefer men to address their issues rather than women.

Madhuri Nair … supports idea of empowerment for women but prefers men to address women’s issues. Image: Wansolwara

Madhuri Nair, of Field 40, Lautoka, likes the idea of women empowerment but prefers men to address women’s issues.

“I think it’s good that more women are participating in political spaces, however, I want men to solve women’s issues because sometimes women don’t think nicely.”

Despite the mixed responses from people around Lautoka, it is clear women at the grassroots level want their voices heard and issues to be addressed.

  • Premila Kumar, Selai Adimaitoga, Veena Bhatnagar, Mereseini Vuniwaqa and Rosy Akbar are included in the 27-member FijiFirst-led government while Social Democratic Liberal Party members Lynda Tabuya, Ro Teimumu Kepa, Salote Radrodro, Adi Litia Qionibaravi and National Federation Party member Lenora Qereqeretabua are included in the 24-member opposition.

Koroi Tadulala is a final-year student journalist at the University of the South Pacific. This article is republished under the content sharing arrangement between USP’s Wansolwara student journalism newspaper and AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.

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2018 Fiji elections – the ‘fake news’ catchphrase of this poll but beware

By Sri Krishnamurthi

“Fake News” was the catch phrase of the 2018 Fiji Elections – the second democratic elections since Commodore, now Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, carried out Fiji’s fourth coup in 2006.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama … reelected with easily the strongest personal vote in the Fiji general election but his FijiFirst party has lost ground since 2014. Image: SK/PMC

That FijiFirst with 227,241 (50.02 percent) votes won the elections with just over half of 458,532 votes cast, giving it 27 seats, is testimony to how nervous it was going into the elections.

The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) won 181,072 votes (39.85%), close to 40 percent of the vote and gets 21 seats in parliament, doing better than it did in 2014, while the National Federation Party completes the makeup with 33,515 votes (7.38 percent) and three seats in the 51-seat Parliament.

“SODELPA – It’s strong indigenous propaganda supported by some deliberate misinformation contributed to a much improved performance, compared with 2014,” said the pro-government newspaper Fiji Sun today in its analysis of the elections.

This was a quaint way of accusing SODELPA of indulging in fake news by the government’s self-confessed propaganda organ.

FijiFirst … triumphs again in a general election, but only just. Image: SK/PMC

In his statement on winning the elections yesterday, published in the Fiji Sun, Bainimarama took the unusual step of accusing the other national daily newspaper, The Fiji Times, of colluding with the opposition in a thinly veiled attack on SODELPA.

-Partners-

“These same disruptive politicians of old, aided and abetted by The Fiji Times did not care to tell you the truth – the truth that iTaukei (Native) land is not only safe like never before under our Constitution but as total land holding has grown under FijiFirst,” he said in a statement.

‘Dishonest politicians’
“In fact it was only under the leadership of these same dishonest politicians that iTaukei land was actually and permanently alienated.

“Their lies and deception knew no boundaries, as individuals, whole communities and religious sentiments were slandered and belittled in an atmosphere of political deceit. They were willing to create economic chaos and undermine our economic future in their greed to win government,” Bainimarama said in his statement from New Zealand, where he was attending his brother Sevenaia’s funeral.

The 48-hour media blackout period – extended until Saturday, November 17, to allow for 22 polling venues to be opened for 7,458 people who were affected by floods – made it easy for social media trolls to make mischief.

At a press conference during the election, Ashwin Raj, the CEO of the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA), admitted to being caught out by the ferocity of fake news and the social media.

In an interview with ABC’s Pacific Beat programme. Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) co-chair Bernadette Carreon put her finger on the problem.

She said the vacuum left by the media blackout had led to fake news and misinformation being shared.

“The media is not allowed to publish any information regarding the election and so there have been reports of some fake websites coming up during the blackout and we call it fake news because it could potentially influence the voting,” she said.

Fact checking
“Media or the readers cannot fact check because the media is not allowed to air any news or information about the election process.”

That fake news dominated the media at the Fiji Elections Office (FEO) for more than two days was hardly surprising – as nothing could be reported on the campaign or the candidates.

FijiFirst’s financial statement for the nine months until 30 September 2018. Image: SK/Twitter

It has been reported on Twitter that FijiFirst, from the financial declarations last month, spent $1.9 million on advertising and $80,000 on social media as of 30 September 2018. (See image)

However, the media blackout and fake news did not have any influence on the Monday before the elections when SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka faced the High Court for the appeal by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) against charges of corruption which were initially dismissed.

The appeal was subsequently dismissed as well to loud cheers from his supporters.
The media scrum was a sight to behold as Rabuka emerged from courtroom victorious accompanied by his protégé Lynda Tabuya.

With more than 2000 people singing Fijian songs in harmony he was escorted down the steps of Parliament which backs onto the court house.

It appeared to be in defiance of the government which have for so long subdued the Fijian people and their natural exuberance.

Sigh of relief
It clearly signalled the portent of what was to come two days later in the elections, and one shudders to think of what could have happened that day had he lost the court case.

But, for now a collective sigh of relief in Fiji, relief that stability continues with murmurings of corruption, relief that a strong opposition is in place, and 10 women have made to Parliament making up 20 percent of the seats, but it bodes for uncertainty in the 2022 elections.

As Professor Jon Fraenkel from Victoria University of Wellington, a visitor and speaker at the University of the South Pacific, told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) on November 14.

“Many indigenous voters are wary of the endless polarisation and mind games of FijiFirst, and there is also considerable anti-Muslim sentiment targeted at the Attorney-General and his many appointees.”

A third term in government is difficult for any party and the warnings are already been written on the wall for FijiFirst – the people have spoken and will again.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology. He was attached to the University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme, filing for USP’s Wansolwara News and the AUT Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

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‘The people have spoken’ – Fiji Times comments on a split election

The Fiji Times editorial … “The challenge for individual voters is to cast aside differences, and unite for a common goal, to move our nation forward.” Image: PMC screenshot

EDITORIAL COMMENT: By Fred Wesley, editor-in-chief of The Fiji Times

Yesterday marked the end of the 2018 Fiji General Election.

It marked the end of a period that culminated in two weeks of intense campaigning.

In the heated battles, parties clung onto strategies they calculated would woo the important component in the election process — the voters.

Today’s Fiji Times front page. Image: FT/PMC

However that panned out, campaigning reached unprecedented levels of attacks, some personal at times.

The attacks inched their way onto the various social media platforms, raising the profile of this particular election.

In the end though, before the writ for election was handed over by the chairperson of the Fijian Electoral Commission, Suresh Chandra, to the President of our nation, Jioji Konrote yesterday, the masses had spoken.

-Partners-

The FijiFirst party got 227,241 votes when the final results were tallied. Their highest votes were from the Western Division, accounting for 91,902 of their total count.

The Voreqe Bainimarama led-party received 65,901 votes from the Central Division, 34,291 votes from the Eastern Division and 31,073 votes from the Northern Division.

The party received 4074 votes through postal ballots.

The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) polled the second highest votes in this year’s polls, making up 39.85 percent of the total votes cast with 181,072.

Their highest votes were from the Central Division where they collected 67,255 votes.

The Sitiveni Rabuka led-party gathered 43,813 votes from the Western Division, 35, 013 votes from the Eastern Division and 30,919 votes from the Northern Division. SODELPA received 4072 votes through postal voting.

The National Federation Party recorded 33,515 votes when the final results were released yesterday.

Out of this, 12,025 were from the Western Division, 10,941 from the Central Division, 5457 from the Eastern Division and 4336 from the Northern Division.

The Biman Prasad led-party received 756 votes from postal voting.

The results meant FFP came off with 27 seats of the 51-member Parliament, while SODELPA came off with 21 and NFP with three to make up the 24-member Opposition.

It was good to note that the new Parliament includes 10 women, five in government and five in the opposition. Congratulations certainly are in order for Mr Bainimarama and his party.

He has the huge task of bringing together a nation that has been split in this election.

His challenge would be to understand the needs of the 227,094 voters who did not vote for his party. For now, all battles must be put on the backburner for the good of the nation.

The challenge for individual voters is to cast aside differences, and unite for a common goal, to move our nation forward.

The masses have spoken.

They have given Mr Bainimarama and FijiFirst the mandate to govern for the next four years.

We must embrace that fact.

That is the beauty of democracy.

Republished from The Fiji Times, 19 November 2018.

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FijiFirst wins Fiji election after tightly contested race

FijiFirst leader Voreqe Bainimarama with supporters during a FijiFirst family fun day in Savusavu before the 2018 general election. Image: FijiFirst FB page

By Wansolwara Staff

It’s official. FijiFirst has won the 2018 general election in Fiji, raking in 227,241 votes (50.02 percent) from 2173 stations counted and securing a second four-year term in office.

FijiFirst dominated the polls in the later counting ahead of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) in an earlier tight contest. SODELPA finished in second place with 181,072 votes (39.85 percent).

The National Federation Party (NFP) finished in third place with 33,515 (7.38 percent) followed by Unity Fiji with 6,896, Humanity Opportunity Prosperity Equality with 2,811 votes and Fiji Labour Party (FLP) with 2,800 votes.

EARLIER REPORT: FijiFirst wins second four-year term

Caretaker Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, FijiFirst leader, finished off on a strong footing, raking in 167,732 votes in the results by candidate tally.

SODELPA’s Sitiveni Rabuka came in second with 77,040 votes followed by Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with 17,271 votes.

-Partners-

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad finished off with 12,137 votes, followed by the leading woman candidate Lynda Tabuya with 8,795 votes.

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem announced the results at the National Results Centre this afternoon after the final results were released on the FEO elections app.

Official results handover
The official elections results were then handed over to Electoral Commission Chairman Suresh Chandra.

“After receiving the results of the 2018 general election, the Electoral Commission will now retire and calculate the seat allocation for the 51 seats for the next term of Parliament,” Chandra said.

Thereafter the announcement of the allocation of Parliament seats will be made followed by the return of the Writ of Election to President Jioji Konrote this afternoon.

It is understood that FijiFirst will probably take 27 seats in Parliament while SODELPA could settle for 21 seats and NFP with 3 seats. This, however, will be confirmed by the Electoral Commission after its deliberations.

This article is republished under the content sharing arrangement between USP’s Wansolwara student journalism newspaper and AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.

The final results in the Fiji general election announced by the Fiji Elections Office (FEO) in Suva today. Source: FEO

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FijiFirst wins second four-year term in office in Fiji general election

Diplomats, officials and party representatives today at the National Results Centre in Suva awaiting the final declaration of the Fiji general election. Image: Nanise Volau/ Wansolwara

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party has triumphed in the general election and will govern for a second four-year term after winning most votes

FFP polled 227,241 votes – just over half the total votes – followed by the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) in second place with 181,072 votes (39.85 percent) while the National Federation Party (NFP) came third with 33,515 votes (7.38 percent).

SODELPA and NFP will again form the opposition for another four years.

Other parties gained less than the 5 percent threshold needed to gain seats in the 51-seat Parliament.

Wansolwara News reported earlier that it was understood that after the official handover of results from the Fiji Elections Office, the Electoral Commission would announce the allocation of seats in Parliament before the Writ of Election would be presented to President Jioji Konrote later today.

The final results in the Fiji general election announced by the Fiji Elections Office (FEO) in Suva today. Source: FEO/Wansolwara

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Fiji’s elections chief Saneem slams 4 political parties – counting on hold

The Supervisor of Elections tells four parties “not to play around with elections” and “be honest”. Image: Wansolwara

By Wansolwara Staff

Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections has hit out at four political parties for making claims that the tabulation process for the provisional results of the 2018 General Election was “not transparent”.

Without mincing his words at a press briefing tonight, Mohammed Saneem urged leaders of the political parties – Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), National Federation Party (NFP), Unity Fiji and Fiji Labour Party (FLP) – “not to play around with elections” and “be honest”.

Claims of a breach in the Protocol of Results process surfaced after a joint statement was sent to the Electoral Commission on Thursday alleging that political party agents and candidates were not shown documents from which the provisional results were posted on the national results tally during the tabulation process.

There were further claims from political parties that incorrect data was also recorded on the FEO App, particularly for votes recorded at the Namosi Village community hall for some of their party candidates.

Responding to these issues, Saneem presented original copies of votes recorded at that particular voting venue and openly compared those with the election records presented by party agents at that polling venue.

There were notable differences in the data collected.

-Partners-

“The parties claim that No. 571 on their record is zero; the Protocol of Results says 571 has one vote, the pink slip for 571 has one and the FEO App has one. For 591 (Biman Prasad), according to the parties, he has five votes.

According to the original, he has four votes, the pink slip has four votes and the FEO App has four votes.

For 688 (Bainimarama), their records say 36, the original pink slip says 96 and the FEO App has 96,” he explained to the media and representatives from the international multinational observer group.

“The Namosi Village community hall is a pre-poll station and that means counting for this station was actually done at the count centre (in Suva). We have evidence, properly justified and signed by agents and staff, nothing is being hidden.

Party records ‘incorrect’
“The records of those parties are extremely incorrect. They were highly inaccurate results projected here for the sake of publicity and this is why the FEO is urging all members of the public to rely on the FEO information as the most accurate for this general election.

“We will pause and provide the political parties that have got agents present here with the records from the results management system as well as the protocols of results and we will reconcile to make sure that everybody in the results centre has the same amount of data including the data on the app.

“I hope this settles the entire question about attempts to create doubt about the results.”

Saneem further clarified that the Fijian Elections Office had three verification processes before data is accepted into results software or results management system.

This article is republished under the content sharing arrangement between USP’s Wansolwara student journalism newspaper and AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.

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Crosbie Walsh: Fiji elections still a cliffhanger, FijiFirst hanging on

Fiji general election … a disappointing low voter turnout but the atrocious weather is an insufficient reason. Image: Wansolwara

ANALYSIS: By Dr Crosbie Walsh

With the final results from 1715 (79 percent) of the 2173 polling stations now counted, who will form the next Fiji government is still too close to call, although the trend since earlier announcements — and the preliminary results announced on Thursday —  indicate a narrow win for FijiFirst.

As of 1pm today, FijiFirst had 49.93 percent of the vote, SODELPA 39.96 percent and National Federation Party (NFP) 7.36 percent. The other parties had a combined total of 2.74 percent, well below the 5 percent threshold to win a seat.

What has been most disappointing is the low voter turnout. The atrocious weather did not help but in itself is an insufficient reason.

READ MORE: Counting still going on with final result due Sunday

There are likely to be a mix of reasons but their relative importance will remain unknown. They could perhaps have chosen not to vote because they are happy with the status quo under FijiFirst.

They could have expected FijiFirst to win, so why bother? They could have been overwhelmed and confused by the many pressures to vote from FijiFirst and the pressures and rumours from the Opposition.

-Partners-

Or they could have thought the election result would not improve their lives whatever the outcome.

So what can we deduce from the results so far?

‘Work in progress’
Bainimarama’s FijiFirst seems likely to win 27 seats, SODELPA 20 and NFP 4 seats in the 51-seat chamber.

The aim of the 2013 constitution in abolishing race-based elections which favoured the chiefly Taukei appears to be a work “still in progress”. SODELPA is essentially a Taukei party with 43 of its 51 candidates Taukei, 4 Indo-Fijians and 4 Others.

NFP, a traditional Indo-Fijian party, had made serious efforts to be more multiracial. Nineteen of its 51 candidates are Taukei, 29 Indo-Fijians and 3 Others.

FijiFirst is the most balanced party with 26 Taukei, 23 Indo-Fijian and 2 Others. It even has two chiefs! But no paramount chiefs.

Two heads of Confederacies, Ro Teimumu Kepa (Burebasaga) and Naiqama Lalabalavu (Tovata), are SODELPA candidates. The Kubuna headship is at present vacant.

A Rotuman, Pasepa Lagi, out-polled Bainimarama and all other candidates in Rotuma.

A casual examination of voting by the type and location of polling station shows race and parochial interests to still be very evident.

Village voting
People voting in Taukei villages generally voted SODELPA, no doubt due to the influence of village heads (turaga ni koro). This pattern did not seem to be influenced by whether or not the FijiFirst government had spent money on local development.

So much for the social media and opposition claims that FijiFirst was buying votes. Those in (mainly Indo-Fijian) settlements voted FijiFirst or NFP.

In urban areas, voting also seemed to be greatly influenced by race, and to a lesser extent by economic wellbeing.

Three types of polling stations deserve special mention. Those located in military areas voted overwhelmingly for FijiFirst (which reduces the prospect of another coup); police areas were about equally divided between FijiFirst and SODELPA, and Corrections were predominantly SODELPA.

One further initial observation is the different distribution of candidate preferences.  Bainimarama was the first choice  with 36.8 percent for FijiFirst votes.

SODELPA’s Rabuka only accounted for 17 percent with other candidates scoring higher than with FijiFirst.

Interestingly, Ro Teimumu Kepa only won 1.2 percent of SODELPA votes.  This suggests more parochially-orientated voting for  SODELPA and perhaps what could be called more nationally-orientated voting with FijiFirst.

But individual SODELPA candidates may have been better known in particular locations.

The geography of how people voted in 2014 and 2018  by polling station would make a very good topic for a master’s thesis. There are certainly enough hypotheses to test.

Retired University of the South Pacific development studies professor Crosbie Walsh is a New Zealand-based academic. His articles are published by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

FijiFirst leads election polls, 772 stations yet to be counted

Fiji general election votes are still being counted and finalised at the National Results Centre in Suva. Image: Mereoni Mili/Wansolwara File

By Wansolwara Staff

The ruling FijiFirst party has taken a narrow lead in the Fiji general election final results today ahead of the opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) after 1401 of 2173 stations were counted.

As of 5am today and with 772 stations yet to be counted, FijiFirst has so far topped the results by party with 131,629 votes compared with SODELPA’s 115,150 votes.

The National Federation Party (NFP) trails in third place with 19,312 votes followed by Unity Fiji with 4239, Humanity Opportunity Prosperity Equality (HOPE) Party with 1725 votes and Fiji Labour Party with 1664 votes so far.

Final Fiji election progress results as at 5am today. Source: FEO

FijiFirst leader Voreqe Bainimarama has maintained a strong lead ahead of SODELPA’s Sitiveni Rabuka in the official results by candidates, raking in 97,352 votes so far compared with Rabuka’s 47,764 votes.

All smiles … caretaker Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in lead in final progress results in the Fiji election today. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is in third place with 9840 votes followed by Biman Prasad on 6975 and Lynda Tabuya with 5170 votes.

Alipate Nagata has placed in the top 10 results by candidates with 4117 votes ahead of Niko Nawaikula with 3820, Ro Teimumu Kepa with 3571 votes and Mosese Bulitavu with 3561 votes so far.

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Some notable changes so far with the final results include an increase in the number of stations being counted.

Provisional results and early counts from the final results were from 2170 stations. However, the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, has since clarified that there are now 2173 polling stations after the inclusion of three more polling stations to account for the postal ballots.

Voting today
Wansolwara’s Laisenia Nasiga reports that registered voters who cast their votes on polling day (Wednesday, November 14) at the 22 polling venues that were later adjourned as a result of bad weather will still have to vote today.

According to Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem, 7498 people were expected to cast their votes at these 22 polling venues.

“If a voter’s finger contains indelible ink, they will still be allowed entry into the polling venue to mark their ballot paper. The voter will then have to ink another finger,” Saneem told a press briefing in Suva yesterday.

“Any voter who has already voted at these locations will be allowed to vote again. All votes that were received from these places on Election Day will be cancelled. They will not be counted.

“We will be using freshly printed ballot papers as well as new ballot boxes to facilitate elections at these venues and voters can come and vote between the hours of 7.30am to 6pm.”

The final election result is expected tomorrow.

This article is republished under the content sharing arrangement of USP’s Wansolwara student journalism newspaper and AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media