The Fiji Labour Party is concerned that some 20% of eligible voters have not been registered yet, with the promised elections only 9 months away.
According to official figures the eligible voter population at 30th June 2013 stood at 628,000 of which 505,600 have been registered, leaving 122,400 (20%) yet to be registered.
The highest number of unregistered voters are in the provinces of Ba, Naitasiri, Macuata and Nadroga/Navosa.
In Ba, 35,800 voters have not been registered – 20% of the voting population; in Naitasiri – 33,058 (27%) are left to register; in Macuata about 12,000 (22%) and in Nadroga/Navosa 9,148 which is 21% of the eligible voters.
On the island of Rotuma 26% of voters, 359 of a total of 1461 voters, are yet to be registered.
Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said, “Elections Office staff are hampered in their work in the absence of a substantive Supervisor of Elections to take charge and staff morale is quite low due to uncertainties about their future. There is excessive control from the Attorney General’s office,” he said
Mr Chaudhry said the Elections office had its priorities wrong. They just spent thousands of dollars on registration in New Zealand and recorded only about 500 registrations. Now, visits are being planned to Australia, USA and Canada, at enormous cost, no doubt, when this work should rightly be handled by Fiji’s diplomatic missions overseas, as in the past.
On the other hand, local voters are not getting the focus they should particularly in the rural and remote areas because of a lack of resources, we are told. Registration as of now is open only in 5 of the 30 centres.
Mr Chaudhry says the Elections Office should make house visits in the rural areas, as was done in the past, to ensure that most if not all eligible voters are registered.
Moreover, to facilitate public access to the National Voters Register, copies should be made available at all times at District Offices, Provincial and Municipal Council offices and, in remote centres, at Post Offices or other Government agencies.
Registered political parties should be given soft copies of the Voter rolls. It should also be placed online for viewing. The rolls should be fully and readily available and accessible to the public.
Mr Chaudhry also expressed concern about delays in the promulgation of electoral legislation.
“This is highly unsatisfactory as the absence of legislation is affecting the work of political parties with regard to their voter education programme,” he said.