2018 election ‘fever’

National Federation Party vice-president Seini Nabou speaking during the political parties panel discussion and public forum. She is flanked by former prime ministers Mahendra Chaudhry and Laisenia Qarase. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA/FILE

ELECTION fever is growing.

And once the public announcement of the date of the general election is made, expect a huge escalation of campaigning, allegations and counter allegations, claims and counter claims before things settle down and voting begins, says University of the South Pacific Professor in Governance and Development Studies, Vijay Naidu.

“The rumour mills have been at work about when the general election will be held. Some have speculated that it will be in late September/early October, while others say that November will be the likely month and still others are saying it might be in December,” Prof Naidu said.

He said from the announcements made by the chairman of the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Elections, it was apparent that the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) was on the ready to institute the logistics of the general election once the writ was in hand.

“Voter registration, election information booklets, ballot papers, ballot boxes and related documentation, more than 2500 polling stations and the electoral management system are in place. This level of readiness and preparedness is to be commended.”

However, Prof Naidu said, to be perceived by the voting public as independent, neutral and non-partisan, it was crucial that both the Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections rise above the accusations directed at them by political parties, eschewing rhetorical pronouncements that fuel further controversy regarding their pivotal functions. “Mature, deliberate and diplomatic responses are needed at this time.

“However, for political parties the current period is replete with excitement, anxiety and tensions as they await the Writ of Election.

“Some parties have already identified and announced their candidates, other parties have announced some of their candidates, and the remaining ones are still deciding.

“The emotions relate to planning and strategising for the general election, and timing matters very much.”

Prof Naidu said some party manifestos in some instances were ready, and in some cases, some policy aspects had been shared in the public domain.

“A number of parties have responded to FT’s (The Fiji Times) public policy matters such as minimum wage, housing and health.

“Nevertheless there is a tension creeping as these parties await the writ and the date of the general election because actual election campaigning will really take off in the month and 10 days after the public announcement of the date.

“Small pocket meetings are already taking place, the bigger campaign rallies will begin after the writ is handed down. FijiFrist party has continued broadcasting its subliminal messages along busy roads and intersections.

“The election fever is growing together with the speculation on the date of the 2018 General Election and once the public announcement will be made, expect a huge escalation of campaigning, allegations and counter allegations, claims and counter claims before things settle down before the voting begins.”

He said in terms of the preparations for the general election, the Fiji Police Force would have to strategise and deploy officers and other resources to all polling venues which would number in the hundreds.

“This will be a very significant logistical challenge.

FEO will also hold meetings with owners of bus companies regarding the transportation of voters to the polling venues and stations,” Prof Naidu said. “This will be another major undertaking.”

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