Thursday, 6 December 2018
Fiji: General Election
I would like to start by congratulating the people of Fiji on the success of their national election on 14 November, their second since the return to parliamentary democracy in September 2014. Congratulations to Prime Minister Bainimarama on his re-election. It is also pleasing to note the increase in the number of women members of parliament.
Ten weeks ago a multinational observer group was established at the invitation of the Fijian government to observe their 2018 Fijian general election. The MOG undertook a program of work, observing all key electoral processes and meeting a wide range of stakeholders. This was only possible through the hard work of the 25 long-term observers and MOG secretariat staff. I particularly thank Alice Cawte and her team. Overall the MOG consists of 77 observers from a range of countries, including Senators Ian Macdonald and Claire Moore from the Australian parliament. I was honoured to be a co-chair, along with Mukesh Sahu from India and His Excellency Wajid Fauzi from Indonesia.
The findings of our interim report, handed down on 16 November, were formed through the systematic collection of information by all of our observers, who visited more than 460 polling stations on election day across all four divisions, and reflected a consolidated view of their observations and perspectives from prepolling and election day as well as the weeks preceding it. While the campaign was robust, election day was peaceful and free of any security incidents. The MOG was impressed by the professionalism and transparency of the Fijian Elections Office and their staff. The successful conduct of election day was a testament to this professionalism and their degree of preparation.
While the counting process itself can be time-consuming, this is a result of the high numbers of checks and balances. All votes are counted by hand and by multiple election officials in the full view of party political agents, if they wish to observe. This means it is difficult for errors to occur and easy for observers and political party agents to follow. Voter information awareness campaigns since the last election have been extensive, and this led to a good level of understanding of how to cast a vote under the still relatively new electoral system. Despite voting being non-compulsory, there was a 71 per cent voter turn-out.
Women participated actively as both candidates and voters, and there was a strong female representation in the administration of the election. The MOG's assessment was that the outcome reflected the will of Fijian voters and that they were able to exercise their right to vote freely. Integral to this result was the hard work, dedication and professionalism of the FEO. Most of all, I thank the Fijian people, including the communities, the chiefs, the turaga ni koro and the everyday people, for being so open to us with their views on the electoral system and for welcoming us so warmly.