Voter education should start now.

The CCF notes with concern that while voter registration is expected to commence next month, there is still no substantive appointment to the post of the Supervisor of Elections and the public remains in the dark on the electoral boundaries and constituencies where they will cast their votes.

It should be made clear that the Elections Office need to be independent of any other institution of government to avoid any interference and conflict of interest.

In the interests of transparency it is imperative that the role of the Supervisor of Elections be independent. The electoral process is so important to the future of Fiji that the person who holds the supervisory position must be beyond reproach in terms of his or her independence. A situation cannot exist, therefore, where the supervisor is also responsible for the administration of systems of governance or justice.

“There is concern that there is no indication as to what electoral system is to be adopted for the 2014 elections, even though voter registration is expected to commence within weeks,” says CEO Reverend Akuila Yabaki.

“Voter Education should start now, however, it is also alarming that there are no funds allocated to the Elections Office to conduct public outreach and civic education program on the new electoral system.”

Major changes are envisaged to the current Electoral Act which include removing race-based or the communal voting system and reducing the voting age to 18 years.

Through CCF’s Community based workshops it has become evident that there is a lot of anxiety at the grassroots level on removing the Communal voting system based on misconceptions such as possible changes in land ownership and that removing Communal voting will deprive certain communities from being represented and having their interests protected in Government..

 This is where government and civil society organizations, such as the CCF need to adopt a collaborative approach in emphasizing the need to rid Fiji of raced based voting and all available resources should be drawn to ensure and encourage participation by all Fijians so that they are fully versed with their rights and responsibilities in the electoral process.

There is also a need to ensure voters are confident in the new type of technology which will be used to conduct the election process, how and where to cast their votes to ensure the issue of invalid votes does not arise and peoples turn out in numbers at the polling stations.

“CCF reiterates that the people must beready to accept these changes not with fear and reservations but with confidence and hope to ensure truly free and fair elections are held towards sustainable democracy in future” stresses Rev. Yabaki.

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