Electoral Commission has a duty to ensure free, fair and credible elections

The Electoral Commission must be pro-active not passive when it comes to delivering free, fair and credible elections! It stands in danger of losing public confidence if it does not change its attitude to assist in the process of making our elections free, fair and credible. 

The Coalition of Opposition Political Parties reject explanations given by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission for not actioning 19 recommendations made by the Multinational Observer Group for changes to our electoral process.

We note that Commission Chairman Suresh Chandra in his statement to the media the made no reference to the important recommendations made by the Electoral Commission itself in its 2014 Report.

We do not accept Mr. Chandra’s explanation that the Commission cannot do anything about implementing those recommendations which require making changes to the law.

Time and again, we have emphasized to the Commission that it has a constitutional responsibility under Section 75 of the Constitution to deliver free and fair elections. This  responsibility implies, and indeed, requires it to make recommendations to the government to make changes to electoral laws which would enhance the transparency and integrity of the elections.

The conduct of free and fair elections presumes a pro-active, not a passive Commission. We cannot have confidence in a commission which seems happy to abdicate its responsibilities to the government.

May we remind Mr. Chandra that the former members of the Electoral Commission, in cognizance of this responsibility, had taken up a number of these issues with the Minister for Elections, apparently without much success. They then found it necessary to include it in their report. The present members of the Commission can take a lesson from their predecessors.

The Commission stands in danger of losing public confidence if it does not change its attitude to assist in the process of making our elections free, fair and credible. After all, the recommendations are not those of the political parties but of independent institutions, including government’s own Electoral Commission.

One of our own major concerns is the continuance in office of Mr. Mohammed Saneem as the Supervisor of Elections. The reasons for seeking his removal are clearly stated in our submissions and have been articulated publicly in the past. We stand by our demand and will pursue it because in our view it is necessary to ensure that the person who holds this important constitutional office enjoys the confidence of the public as well as of the political parties.

We refute the chairman’s claim that opposition political parties failed to provide evidence of alleged irregularities in the conduct of the 2014 elections.

As far as the parties are concerned, a number of instances were provided which included opposition party candidates not receiving votes cast for them in a number of polling stations.

However, that matter was not the thrust of our submissions and we would like the chairman not to detract from the substantive issues raised in our written submissions.