SODELPA, NFP and FLP representatives call for participatory elections for the municipal councils

SODELPA, NFP and FLP representatives call for participatory elections for the municipal councils

By Karishma Kumari
Tuesday 26/09/2023
Joe Vuniwai from SODELPA, Monica Raghwan from the Fiji Labour Party and former NFP candidate Bimal Chaudhry

Representatives of SODELPA, National Federation Party and the Fiji Labour Party are calling for a participatory election for the municipal councils.

While expressing his concerns and views as a ratepayer during the Local Government Electoral Act consultations in Suva, Joe Vuniwai from SODELPA says although the law should be amended, it should not be made hard for the people to participate in the elections.

Vuniwai says due to the proposed restrictions, many people lose interest in voting and participating.

He says there needs to be a lapse in the serving period of the local government and the national government.

He says if the national government has a serving period of 4 years, then the local government should have a serving period of 3 years to avoid having troubles.

He further says the independent councils should have a meaningful purpose in the law without any interference from the national government as in 2005 there was a lot of fighting between the ministers and the council which led to a lot of disruptions.

Vuniwai says to have the credibility of the voters, the voter's residency should be increased to 6 months and have inclusion of ratepayers for candidates because 90 percent of the revenue used by the councils is from the ratepayers who are the stakeholders as well.

He says the ratepayers are the ones who are not given the chance to participate by the councils.

Monica Raghwan from the Fiji Labour Party says the voting system for the national elections should not be used in the municipal council elections.

She says an assessment must be made on why rates cannot be paid in the squatter settlements.

She also says the residency requirement for the candidates must be at least 12 months.

Meanwhile, former NFP candidate, Bimal Chaudhry says this proposal is prematurely cooked up because the parties in government do not have ownership of the proposals.

He says the Act that was done in 1972 lasted for a long time because the government and the opposition at that time had no political mistrust to deliver the law, generate democracy and had been of service to our people.

While disagreeing with the qualification and disqualification restrictions of voters and candidates in place, Chaudhry says we must make sure that we work to have a participatory democracy and not where we try to put restrictions.

He says this is a very dangerous step that has been taken.

He also argued that there are anomalies in the 2013 Constitution that need to be addressed before the council elections are held.

Chaudhry says we are making rules to align the Local Government Act with the draconian constitution that is an unfair electoral system, something that is detrimental to the ideas and principles of democracy.

The Local Government Ministry has proposed to amend the Local Government Act which include the voting age to be reduced from 21 to 18 years, and voters in the National Register of Voters to register in a ward boundary within a municipality where they have lived for at least 3 months.

It is also proposed that the candidates must not hold dual citizenship, be a resident of the municipality for at least a year and serve as a candidate for 4 years.

The municipal council elections is expected to take place in the second half of next year.

Consultations on the proposed amendments to the Local Government Act will be held at the Lami Parish Catholic Hall from 5pm to 7pm today.

fijivillage Straight Talk with Vijay Narayan
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