Two election experts from New Zealand will be at hand in Fiji as the South Pacific country goes to polls in September to elect what interim Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, described as the ‘first truly and fairly elected Government in Fijian history.’
Australia and the European Union will also be provide two experts each.
It is understood that the experts have already visited Fiji and met Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to deliberate the election process.
They are expected to visit again before the general election.
The total cost of running the one-day poll is stated to be F$ 40 million.
Mr Bainimarama told a gathering on November 8, 2013 when he announced details of Budget for 2014 that his Government had allocated F$15 million.
“The balance would come from international partners,” he said.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said that Papa New Guinea would give F$ 18 million.
While the new Constitution provides a concrete framework for a stable and ‘never-before-experienced democracy,’ the establishment of an Election Commission will ensure free and fair elections in Fiji.
Mr Bainimarama, who ousted Laisenia Qarase and his Government through a military coup on December 5, 2006, is widely expected to form and lead a democratically elected Government.
But the cause for excitement is something else. As Mr Bainimarama told us and as repeated in media reports all the time, the forthcoming election will witness the ‘One Vote for all’ policy, with all Fijians treated equally.
“We should not have any labels such as ‘Indo-Fijian’ or ‘Ethnic Fijian.’ We are all Fijians, belonging to one country, enjoying the equal rights and privileges as well as obligations and responsibilities,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama repeated his belief while announcing Budget 2014 in Suva.
“When we go to the polls, every Fijian will be given one vote of equal value. No longer will we be divided by ethnicity and forced to queue in different lines at the polling stations. No longer will politicians be able to rely upon pre-determined ethnic voting blocs to win their seats. Most importantly, no longer will political leaders be able to gain election by appealing to narrow interests or the prejudices of one group or another,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama said that anyone who aspires to lead Fiji will have to appeal to the broad interests of all Fijians.
“For the first time, elections will be a means of uniting our nation behind shared aspirations rather than dividing it by exploiting fear and jealousy. Political parties must be of national stature and develop manifestos that appeal to as wide a base as possible – to men and women, rural and urban residents, young and old,” he said.
According to Fiji Elections Office, more than 540,000 Fijians (about 62% of the total population) have registered to vote under a system of electronic voter registration that has been praised by international experts for its ability to help eliminate fraud.
“Registration of overseas voters began last month in New Zealand. This exercise will move next to Australia and to other international locations during 2014,” Mr Bainimarama said.