Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The 2006 General Election Studies: Khaiyum's Lies and Deceit

by Victor Lal


What about European Union’s report on role of military in Fiji politics?

The illegal attorney general Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum never stops citing the European Union’s report on Fiji’s 2006 general election to justify his treasonous acts and that of his puppet dictator Frank Bainimarama.

Khaiyum continuously asserts that Fiji, which he considers as his “Mecca” fiefdom, is being guided by the European Union post-election report which cited irregularities with voter registration and voting practices, such as 101% voter turnout in one constituency, and the disenfranchisement of certain voter groups.

The lies and deceit of the “Squealer” knows no bounds in Fiji’s own Animal Farm. Remember the Squealer character: “All the other male pigs on the farm were porkers. The best known among them was a small fat pig named Squealer, with very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements, and a shrill voice. He was a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some difficult point he had a way of skipping from side to side and whisking his tail which was somehow very persuasive. The others said of Squealer that he could turn black into white.”

Khaiyum says his illegal regime does not want a repeat of 2006 general election results, as highlighted by the European Union. “We have to ensure that there are proper laws to stop this from happening again,” he said. Khaiyum said under the 1997 Constitution, the principle of one person, one vote, and indeed one value was absent.

What the “Squealer” of Fiji has not told about the European Union Report? On 18 May 2006 the Chief Observer of the EU Election Mission to Fiji informed the European Union in his preliminary report as follows: “ Fiji’s May 2006 parliamentary elections were reasonably well organised and fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly were respected. Voters turned out in large numbers and they deserve to be commended for the commitment they have shown to democratic institutions. Ultimately, we do not consider that the shortcomings identified in the preliminary statement were of sufficient magnitude to fundamentally undermine the validity of the election process. These elections were a crucial further step in the consolidation of democracy in the Republic of Fiji Islands and the country now faces new challenges in endorsing the result and accepting a new elected leadership.”

While echoing similar sentiments, the “Final Report”, however had this to say about Khaiyum’s puppet dictator: “The Chief Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces became inappropriately involved in the political campaign through a series of public statements before and during the elections.”

The “Squealer” is not mentioning the role of the military in politics nor is he citing any evidence that suggests that the EU Final Report had recommended that the military should seize power after the 2006 elections and turn Fiji into Animal Farm – managed and dictated by Khaiyum and Bainimarama.

As I have repeatedly pointed out, the dictator seized power because the police were on the cusp of arresting and charging him over the death of soldiers following the 2000 mutiny at the barracks. He had betrayed George Speight and was part of the inner circle which had planned the overthrow of the Chaudhry government.

Here are the Recommendations from the EU’s Final Report on Fiji’s 2006 General Election:

RECOMMENDATIONS
The following recommendations to improve the electoral process and related areas are offered for consideration and action by the Fijian authorities and the international community:

Electoral system

Reforms of Electoral System: The combination of 46 communal constituencies and the ongoing use of the Alternative Vote system have not had the desired effect of diminishing the stratification of Fiji’s electorate and political parties, which reflect divisions between the country’s two main ethnic groups, indigenous-Fijians and Indo-Fijians. Informal round table sessions involving all political parties, independent candidates and civil society groups could provide an opportunity to examine the shortcomings of the current electoral system and explore other systems which might facilitate more cross-ethnic political representation.
Increase Open Constituencies: A gradual increase in the number of open constituencies and a corresponding reduction in the number of communal constituencies, as originally proposed by the 1996 Constitutional Review Commission could promote more intensive inter-ethnic cooperation by political parties.
Review Constituency Boundaries: An immediate review of constituency boundaries is recommended after the planned new census is completed. This should aim to redraw constituency boundaries to ensure a more equitable numerical balance of voters per constituency. The guiding principle of this exercise should be to guarantee adherence to the principle of equal suffrage, which prescribes that no vote should carry proportionally more weight than another.

Electoral Administration  

Strengthen Electoral Management Bodies: The Electoral Commission and the OSE could enhance their effectiveness and independence by acquiring adequate staff and sufficient budgets. The establishment of an electoral management body on a permanent basis would help develop institutional knowledge and improve its planning, training and preparation capacity. Under the current system, the Supervisor of Elections is frequently not in a position to establish his authority over the four divisional Returning Officers due to their normal institutional status as Division Commissioners. At the very least, the appropriateness of Division Commissioners being automatically appointed as Returning Officers during election periods should be reviewed. An explicitly established chain of responsibility and the introduction of clear procedures governing the grounds for the removal from office of the Supervisor of Elections would help clarify working relationships within the electoral management bodies.

Enhanced Societal Representation: The electoral administration management and executive bodies should introduce equality measures in their recruitment procedures to ensure a better representation of women and ethnic groups at all administrative levels. At a political level, steps such as quotas or temporary affirmative action could be taken to enhance the participation of women in municipal bodies and the national parliament.
Regular Meetings with Political Parties: OSE should establish a permanent timetable of regular meetings with political parties to provide timely information on election-related issues. The frequency of meetings could be increased in election years.
Finance Regulation: The Electoral Commission should propose that parliament considers a regulation on political party finances. Such a regulation would provide accountability to voters on how parties and candidates acquire the financial means to run campaigns.
Political Parties’ Code of Conduct: The Electoral Commission should put forward a code of conduct for political parties to strengthen respect for common rules and standards during the electoral campaign.
Development of Voter Education: Effective voter education programmes should be developed and implemented well ahead of elections to increase the level of understanding of the electoral process, thereby reducing the number of invalid votes. The involvement of non-governmental organisations would contribute to the effectiveness of such campaigns.
Annual Updates of Register of Voters: Implementation of the annual update of Register of Voters in accordance with the Electoral Act requirement, and the institution of a permanent and public voters’ database would improve the quality of the electoral roll. Political parties should be given the opportunity to observe all stages of the updating of the register. 
Procedural Improvements: The numbers of forms used by election officials during voting and counting should be reduced and procedures simplified in order to develop a more straightforward and accountable system.
Voter Intention: The Electoral Act should be amended to strengthen the provision on voter intention by accepting a tick below the line as a valid selection. This would also help reduce the number of invalid votes.
Ballot Paper Design: Ballot papers should be redesigned with a simplified layout to reduce voters’ mistakes. One approach might be to abolish the system of above and below the line marking. Instead, voters could either mark a single box for a party or indicate their order of preference for candidates by ranking their selection with numbers. The use of the three main languages on the ballot papers, instead of just one, would also facilitate better voter understanding.
Postal Voting Reforms: The application for postal ballots and the postal voting in person should end before the first day of normal polling. The postal voting procedures should be improved, particularly in relation to reconciliation and security, to achieve a more transparent and accountable system.
Reduction in Polling Days: The number of polling days should be gradually and substantially reduced to eventually allow voting to be concluded in just one day. This should mean improved efficiency and accountability. By diminishing the number of transport days and the need for overnight storage of materials, security would also be improved. 
Polling Station Reforms: Voters should be able to vote only in an allocated polling station which should be located only in public buildings. This would reduce the number of ballot papers needed, reduce the number of ballot boxes and increase the accountability of the process. The OSE could display all relevant data in each polling station at the end of each polling day. This form could also be distributed to party agents and observers.
Training of Electoral Staff: The introduction of more effective training for polling and counting staff would lead to a more uniform implementation of procedures. The adoption of accurate and user-friendly training manuals would allow staff to develop an improved understanding of procedures.

Transparency

Handling of Election Complaints: A clear procedural set up for the handling of complaints is essential to establish accountability of the Electoral Commission and the OSE and could be implemented at all levels of the election administration. A register of complaints in concert with a timely settlement of formal protests from the level of polling station up to the Electoral Commission is crucial to promote transparency of the process.
Public Information Policy: Decisions and minutes of the Electoral Commission and OSE meetings should be published and made easily accessible and available on an official website. Election results should also be published on the web page as soon as they have been announced. In addition, the transparency of the counting process would benefit by the distribution to voters, political parties and observers of a list of the ballot box numbers, along their seal numbers, before the formal start of counting.
Electoral Campaign Period: The introduction of a specific day and hour for the start and end of the electoral campaign would allow political parties, candidates and media to know when campaign rules take effect.
Training of Party Agents: More effective training for party agents on voting and counting procedures would increase their efficacy. Non-governmental organisations and the OSE should be more involved in providing electoral training to political parties.
Domestic Observers: The involvement of national observers from non-governmental organisations would enhance voters’ confidence in the process.

Security

Ballot Boxes: To increase security, the old wooden ballot boxes need to be replaced with translucent environmentally friendly plastic ballot boxes sealed exclusively with numbered plastic seals.
Storage Facilities: Polling and counting agents should be able to observe at any given time the transfer of ballot boxes and the storage facilities.

Media

Media Guidelines: The OSE’s guidelines for media coverage of electoral campaigns should be issued well ahead of the start of the campaigns.
Media Training: More effective training for journalists is advisable to improve the quality and accuracy of reporting and develop more analytical coverage of the electoral process.
Media Legal Framework: A revision of the Broadcasting Commission Act 1953 is required, as well as the introduction of an information law to regulate more extensively the electronic media.

Again, we repeat and challenge Fiji’s “Squealer” and his dictator piglet to provide evidence where the European Union Report had recommended that the military should seize power in December 2006 and turn the country into Animal Farm, to be ruled by decrees, fear, violence, and all other violations that have been taking place since 2006?


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