Former member of the Electoral Commission, Professor Vijay Naidu says the Supervisor of Elections should be independent of the Electoral Commission and not hold the position of Secretary to the Commission, however, the Fijian Elections Office says this appointment is in accordance with international practice.
Naidu made these comments during a panel discussion on ‘State of Democracy’ organized by the NGO Coalition for Human Rights to take stock of the country’s achievements, challenges and discuss on ways forward for Fiji to mark 50 years of Independence.
Naidu says the Supervisor is no longer being overseen and supervised by the Electoral Commission when in fact, he should be.
He says the members of the Commission during the 2018 general elections had no experience in elections and the only experienced person was the Supervisor.
The Professor adds that the decision to make the Supervisor the Secretary to the Commission was made after the Court of Appeals decision that the Supervisor must not direct what the Commission should do.
In response to the comments by Naidu, the Fijian Elections Office referred to the final report of the Multinational Observer Group on the 2018 General Election.
The report says that the Group found Fiji’s Electoral Management Body, in the main, adequately resourced and structured to conduct the 2018 Election.
It says an amendment to the Electoral Act in 2017 which made the Supervisor of Elections the Secretary to the Electoral Commission - a structural change that accords with international practice- ensured good communication between the two limbs and clarified the uncertainty about their relationship evident in 2014.
They will not comment any further on this.
Meanwhile, Electoral Commission Chairperson, Suresh Chandra says they appreciate the amendment that was done in 2017 making the Supervisor of Elections the Secretary to the Commission.
He says the effect of this simple amendment was reaching far and wide as the relationship between the Commission and the Office of the Supervisor of Elections was greatly improved in comparison to the findings in the observer reports from 2006 and 2014.
Chandra says the 2018 Election operations went smoothly and the information to the Commission from the Elections and the directives from the Commission to the Office was freely flowing through the Supervisor of Elections as Secretary.
The Chairperson adds that pursuant to Section 75 of the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji, the Commission is required to conduct the general elections in accordance with the law and the conduct of the elections is the responsibility of the Fijian Elections Office.
Chandra has highlighted that in this instance, the Commission noted that in having the Supervisor of Elections present in the meetings and situations where his decisions were not considered or was appealed against, the Commission was able to convey its thoughts directives without any difficulty.
He adds the Supervisor excused himself in matters where the Commission would determine an objection or an appeal against his decision.
Chandra adds that as Chair, he thinks that such an amendment was instrumental in the smooth and proper delivery of the 2018 Elections and feels that the governance of elections in Fiji has gained with such a tweak to the electoral administration.
He says any calls, otherwise, are unfounded and based on facts which are no longer relevant to the current governance in elections.
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