Utter shambles to start of polls

Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has expressed disgust at the complete shambles experienced at polling stations throughout the country at the start of polls because ballot papers were not available.

“Hundreds of voters were either turned away or had to wait hours for ballot papers to arrive,” an angry Mr Chaudhry said.

“We kept warning the nation that the Elections Office was simply not ready for the polls. No-one took any notice.

“I hold the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Elections fully answerable for this utter disarray to the start of the 2006 general elections. They cannot create a mess and not be held accountable,” Mr Chaudhry said.

While all polling stations started late, some did not open until mid-day or even later. About 1000 voters were turned away at the TPAFF polling centre in Nasinu which did not open until 11.30am, instead of the scheduled opening time of 7am.

Polling station at Kalabo opened at 1.30pm because ballot papers were not available – a delay of 6 and half hours during which time voters were either forced to queue up or left in disgust

The Colo-i-Suva polling station opened after 12 noon instead of 7am – voters were forced to wait more than 5 hours.

Labour is also concerned at the fact that certain polling stations ran out of ballot papers for the Indian communal seats but had sufficient papers for the Fijian and Others seats.

The Qaloa polling station closed at 3pm one hour ahead of the scheduled closing at 4pm when it ran out of ballot papers for the Indian communal seat. But ballot papers were available for the Fijian Communal and Others.

Similarly the polling station at the Naitasiri Bhartiya School in Baulevu closed at 2.30pm when it ran out of ballot papers for the Indian communal seat while people were still queuing up to cast their votes. The polling station was scheduled to close at 5pm.

“A lot of this is deliberate. It is designed to frustrate the process and disenfranchise voters,” said Krishna Datt, FLP’s campaign manager for the Central Division.

A lot of problems were also caused by names missing from rolls or being registered in wrong constituencies. There were also a significant number of cases where voters were registered in the Communal roll but not in the Open constituency and vice versa.

In Ba, at the polling station at the Namau Public School some 291 voters could not vote because their names were registered in the Ba West Constituency instead of the Ba East.

This was despite assurances by the Supervisor of Elections Office earlier that the names had been transferred to the correct constituency, after a complaint was lodged.

The FLP maintains that such electoral shambles have never been experienced before.

It calls on the Supervisor of Elections office to extend polling by another day in stations where there was a significant delay in the opening of the polling station due to non availability of ballot papers, instead of forcing voters to vote in the dark by extending voting hours.