A tick for the voters

A RECORD 83.9 per cent of Fiji’s 591,101 registered voters voted in the September 17 General Election to appoint a 50-member Parliament — beating the likes of New Zealand and the US.

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem said this election was the most successful one in the country’s history, and thanked Fijians for the historic feat.

“The Fijian people came out in numbers on the day and took ownership of the democratic process in a remarkable way that stands out amongst democratic nations,” Mr Saneem said.

He said New Zealand’s election recorded a voter turnout of 77 per cent, while the US presidential election in 2012 recorded a 60 per cent voter turnout — comparatively low than Fiji’s.

“In both these countries, voting is voluntary like it is in Fiji and so the Fijian people should be extremely proud that Fiji sits at the very top end of the international spectrum of democratic participation.”

Mr Saneem said every voter had one vote and all votes had equal value.

He said voters chose one candidate to vote for under an open list system — with each candidate randomly assigned a unique three-digit number prior to the election and these numbers appeared on the ballot paper.

He added voter feedbacks had been overwhelmingly positive because they simply had to mark the number of candidate they had to vote for.

“In the past, Fijians voted under the Alternative, or AV vote system which was based along racial lines. Every voter had two votes, one for a general constituency and one for a racial constituency in which they could only vote for a candidate of their own race.

“The 2014 election was significant for Fiji because it was the first time Fijians voted with a common voter’s roll.

“This was the first time that Fijians voted for the same pool of candidates and didn’t have to stand in different queues based on their race. We are very happy that the Fijian people have responded so positively to the new system.”

He said with 15,000 Fijians assisting the Elections Office, Fiji had shown the world it could achieve a peaceful and professional election, free from major incidents, and conducted to high international standards.

Also, Mr Saneem noted, only 0.75 per cent (3723) of the 496,364 ballots cast were invalid, a record low for an election in Fiji.

“The low number of invalid votes amongst both regular voting and postal voting demonstrates the strength of the new electoral system, which gives every registered voter a single vote in a multi-member national constituency.”

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