Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says he had argued against the PR Open Party List system of voting when it came up for discussion at the NCBBF meeting.
“Adi Finau ( Fiji Sun 23/9/08) is not being quite honest when she claims I was part of the decision. Verbatim NCBBF records should show my position on the proposal. Adi Finau was, in fact, among other NCBBF members who had also expressed their reservations on the proposed PR system.
“I expressed reservations about the system then and continue to do so as I sincerely believe it will be divisive, will create further political instability with the creation of numerous minority parties, and will be cumbersome and confusing to our voters,” Mr Chaudhry said.
On the issue of invalid votes, Adi Finau has obviously not looked at how the system has worked in countries that have adopted the PR form of voting. In Scotland for instance, a very high number of invalid votes have been recorded.
Fiji voters certainly do not have the same degree of education and sophistication of these advanced Western countries. Nor does Fiji have the political maturity to cope with a host of minority parties at this stage in our development.
Under the system recommended by the NCBBF the whole of Fiji is to be divided into 3, 4 or 5 large constituencies with the distribution of seats to the constituencies ranging from a low of 14 to a high of 29. There will be no single member constituencies.
With three or four parties and independents contesting the elections, voters would end up with ballot papers containing several pages with over hundred names on it. They would then be required to tick between 14-29 names depending on their constituency.
Common sense dictates that such a system will not only be cumbersome and confusing but also a deterrent for voters, particularly the elderly, the illiterate or less educated voters who would dread having to count and tick up to 29 names.
A voter could end up being in the polling booth for as long as 15 minutes or so to go through the ballot papers and place 29 ticks on it. It will be a nightmare for them and electoral officials. The entire voting process would be very slow requiring voters to wait for hours in long queues.
“I have received complaints that the NCBBF teams are not explaining the proposed system to the people. This may be because they themselves have not been fully briefed on it.
“Once the complexities of the system are explained to the people, they reject it outright. That has been my experience in over 25 meetings I have had so far in various parts of Fiji” said Mr. Chaudhry.
“There are other options in use in multi-cultural democracies that should be examined because of the importance of the electoral reforms. We want a system that is easy to understand and implement, and is democratic with a vote of equal value,” he said.
Adi Finau should know better than to take cheap shots at FLP’s reasons for opposing the system. The Labour Party is the only party on record which has indicated its support for electoral reforms to move away from the current race-based system.
Electoral reforms are a sensitive and complex issue and would be best resolved through the political dialogue forum which should be convened as soon as possible to iron out matters of concern to political parties,” said Mr Chaudhry.
Finally, the People’s Charter is as yet in its draft form and people are entitled to give their views on it. They don’t have to accept a system just because the NCBBF has so recommended, apparently without any reference to the ground realities.