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The rush to Fiji

So much to do, so little time, but Fiji’s Elections Office is optimistic

By first June, the countdown clock on the Fijian Election Office’s official website would read 107 days to poll day. That website www.fijielections.gov.fj actually breaks it down to number of hours, minutes and seconds to 17 September, which has been officially declared a public holiday to allow Fiji’s 550,262 registered voters (and counting) to exercise their democratic right and vote. That ticking clock does appear however to be directed more at the Fijian Elections Office and not so much the country’s voters.

With elections just two and a half months away, Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem and his staff are racing to ensure that the country will be ready by voting day. Between now and 17 September, Saneem and his office would need to, among other things: • hire then train 14,000 polling officials • finalise and assign officials to the 1,338 or so polling venues around the country’s central, western, northern and eastern divisions • receive and prepare the thousands of ballot boxes and collapsible voting booth being ordered from overseas • step-up its voter education programmes across all news media • supervise the candidates’ nomination day finalise its unique ballot paper by compiling the National Candidates List • obtain Party List from each of the parties approved to contest the September elec- tions.

For now, the removal of political party symbol from the ballot paper is a contentious matter. None of the registered political party Islands Business contacted was happy about the use of numbers, instead of party symbols on the ballot. The People’s Democratic Party president Lynda Tabuya seems to think Fiji’s electoral decree was designed to confuse the voter. “The Supervisor of Elections has made a ruling after appeals from political parties that there will be no party symbols on the ballot paper,” she said. “Also candidates will be allocated and identified by a number three weeks before the elections. “Imagine 300 candidates each with a number and candidates will have only three weeks to campaign on their number. “This will ensure that the political party that controls the media and has taxpayers’ money at its disposal benefit the most. One guess as to which party that is?”

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