Concern at printing of excessive ballot papers

  • 13th September 2014
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Fiji Labour Party is concerned at the excessive number of ballot papers, over 100,000, printed by the Elections Office.

“The extra ballot papers stand at 21% of all registered voters. This is simply ridiculous,” says Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

Agents were informed by the Supervisor of Elections (SoE), Mohammed Saneem at the  Star Printery where ballot papers were printed, that a total of 700,000 ordinary ballot papers and 15,000 postal ballot papers were to be printed.

“The number of registered voters total 591,000. This means that an additional 124,000 ballot papers are to be printed. This is far too many –  even if polling is at 90% which is highly unlikely.  At best poll percentages in the week-long elections in the past when voting was compulsory, were around 80%,”  Mr Chaudhry said.

“ An additional 124,000 ballot  papers is far too excessive. It is dangerous to have too many extra ballot papers floating  around,”  Mr. Chaudhry warned.

Supervisor Saneem’s explanation  for printing such excessive number of additional ballot papers was that they were needed to replace spoilt ballot papers.

This explanation is not acceptable. The additional ballot papers count to 21% of the registered voters.  Assuming a high poll rate of 80%, the total number of ballot papers needed would be 472,000. Why then print 715,000?

The Electoral Decree (S38 (3)  requires the number of ballot papers to be printed to equal the total number of registered voters, plus a contingency determined by the SoE.

A contingency of around 3% or 17,000 ballot papers would be more than adequate considering that  some 20% or 118,000 registered voters are unlikely to vote in any event.

There is a danger in printing excessive number of ballot papers in that ballot boxes can be stuffed in the event of a rigged elec

“This concern becomes even more relevant now that we are informed by the SoE that ballot boxes will not be numbered unlike the past elections where each ballot box was numbered and identified before the count,” said  Mr Chaudhry.

Mr Chaudhry said that the credibility of the elections remain questionable given that a number of practices adopted so far are irregular.

Another questionable action of the Supervisor was not to invite political parties to the printing to observe the process until the second day of the print when more than half the ballot papers had already been printed and stacked away.

The unlawful disqualification of FLP candidate Steven Singh by the Supervisor is yet another indelible stamp on the electoral process. He allowed a Fiji First candidate who was disqualified by the Electoral Commission to contest but denied a qualified candidate the right to contest.

This is despite the fact that the supervisor admitted that he had made a  mistake in  ruling Steven Singh ineligible to contest the elections. One should have the courage to rectify one’s mistakes instead of denying a candidate his constitutional right to contest the elections.

What more proof of bias against FLP is needed to convince anyone that the whole electoral machinery is disgraceful?

Another questionable issue is the 10 days over which pre-polling is to be staggered out, at what was initially supposed to be one-day polls.

This has created a lot of confusion among voters who had one-day polls drummed into their heads by the regime, despite strong objections from political parties that one-day polling was unfeasible. There have been too many last minute changes and adjustments   that have left  voters thoroughly confused.

Some even thought  pre-polling was just a trail run and not the real thing – they were waiting to poll on 17 September.

Elections officials have now been forced to allow those who missed out to have a second chance at casting their votes.