Elections Office told to consider Labour’s concerns

The Elections Office has been instructed by the Electoral Commission to address concerns raised by the Labour Party regarding non compliance with the Electoral Act.

Electoral Commissioner Graham Leung has written to Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry to say that he had instructed Elections Supervisor Semesa Karavaki to address the concerns raised by Mr Chaudhry.

Mr. Leung expects to get back to Mr. Chaudhry in 48 hours.

If the Labour Party’s complaints are upheld, the 2006 elections may have to be moved from early May to sometime in June to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

Mr. Chaudhry has repeatedly claimed that in rushing through the provisional electoral rolls, the Elections Office has breached requirements of the Electoral Act. He had threatened to take legal action if the concerns were not addressed since failure to comply would disenfranchise thousands of voters.

Mr. Karavaki had rubbished Labour’s claims with the remark that Chaudhry can take his complaints, even to heaven, if he wanted it would not have any effect on the Elections office. He accused Chaudhry of not dealing directly with the Elections office.

But Chaudhry responded that he had written 20 letters to the Elections office since 30 September 2005 airing his grievances regarding the Provisional rolls in terms of errors and irregularities contained in them.

“You cannot accuse the FLP of not bringing its concerns to your notice. If your office, by its conduct, infringes on those rights by its acts or omissions then it is my duty and that of the FLP as representatives of the people to highlight these concerns and to prevent voters being disenfranchised in the upcoming elections,” Chaudhry said.

“It is quite obvious from your media response that you are evading to answer the FLP’s assertion that your office and the Electoral Commission has been acting in contravention of the mandatory provisions of the Act, with respect to the publication of the Main Rolls, the timeframe for Objections/ Settling of Objections, the Incorrect Process with regard to Petitions of Demonstrated Support and Inadequate Timeframe for Lists of Preferences.

“Such conduct on your part, and that of the Electoral Commission, assumes greater concern given the fact that you, as well as Mr. Leung and Mr. M Sahu Khan are all senior lawyers and should be aware of the provisions of the Act and should work within its parameters rather than outside it.

“The elections must be held in accordance with the Act and non compliance of that Act will attract the sanction of the Courts. I, again, give you till the close of business this afternoon (13th March) to address the concerns of the FLP, as per our letters, failing which we will initiate Court proceedings to enforce your office to comply with the Act in the processes/ conduct of elections.”

Labour’s concerns are detailed below:

  •  If one were to accept that Parliament would be dissolved on 27th March, and writs for elections issued a week thereafter, this would be around 3 – 4th April.
  •  The electoral rolls would then close 7 days after this date, which would be on or about 11th April and would be subject to an objection period.
  •  The objection period allows the Supervisor 14 days to dismiss or uphold an objection (S 23) and this response would be received on or around 25th April.
  •  This decision is appealable and the voter may, within 14 days of the date of the decision or within such further period, apply to the Electoral Commission (Commission) for a review of the decision – S24(1). This would expire on or around 9th May.
  •  The Commission must then make a decision within 14 days and must make a decision in writing whether to affirm or set aside the decision of the Supervisor of Elections – S24 (4). This would expire on or around 23rd May.
  •  The publication of the final rolls would take at least a further 14 days. This would be around the second week of June.

Such a process would, in effect, mean that the rolls would not be finalized prior to the commencement of the polls, tentatively set for 6th May. As such, the 6-13th May elections cannot be held during that period because to do so would be in breach of the Electoral Act and the rights of the voter.