Intending candidates warned of changes to electoral law in Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands Electoral Commission chief electoral officer (CEO), Mose Saitala. Picture: SOLOMON STAR

HONIARA, 29 AUGUST 2018 (SOLOMON STAR) – The passage of the newly amended electoral law puts a hard warning to intending candidates for the upcoming National General Election in terms of how they perform themselves during their campaign.

Solomon Islands Electoral Commission chief electoral officer (CEO), Mose Saitala urged the intending candidates to fully understand the law before starting to do their campaigns, as the newly amended electoral law has some changes with regards to some of the sections.

Saitala said one of the areas to consider is the importance of understanding the awareness/campaign and how it is defined.

“Please refrain from doing things to extent, especially performing out of its intended definition as it will backfire at the candidate.”

He added that the current law is subjected to a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 (US$630 – US$1,261).

“The law is aimed at strengthening the electoral system and now it has very tough rules on it so please refrain from involving in such quick campaign that will backfire at you,” Saitala said.

Before it is amended, the law does not clearly state the actual definition of which candidate can do and will obliged to offend but with the recent one, it is much clearer of what actions would guaranteed to break the law.

According to the law itself, “in relation to the referendum campaign, it is vital to make sure that the voters hear the case put forward on both sides of an issue.

“Hence, campaign regulations may be implemented to try to ensure that there is a level playing field between organisations campaigning for and against the referendum.

“These might include limits on campaign expenditure (although in some countries limits may be deemed unconstitutional) and/or controls on the acceptance of campaign contributions, and control on the access to the media.

“In Quebec, all interested organisations must group themselves into two umbrella groups, while elsewhere any number of organisations can campaign independently for or against an issue being referred to the voters,” it was stated.

The Electoral Act of 2018 went through its third reading in the house on Thursday with the two thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, most of the Members of Parliament (MPs) want Clause 67 in the Electoral Bill 2018 to be amended considering the cultural sensitivity of this particular clause.

Clause 67 (3) stated that if a candidate dies after the end of the nomination period and before the polling day the Electoral Commission must request the Governor General to cancel the election and appoint a new election date for the constituency.

The argument by some MPs was against the idea that an election must continue despite the death as argued by the Member of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga Mathew Wale.

Wale said that an election should proceed regardless of the death of an intending candidate.

“Perhaps in the event that the dead candidate was standing under a party, that party should be allowed to endorse another of the remaining candidates, but must not affect the polling date,” Wale said.

He further argued that it is unfair on the rest of the constituency and the other candidates who will have to repeat the effort and expenditure of campaigning if the election is canceled and a re-run later.

“And the two combined expenditure from the two elections will mostly likely exceed the expense limit,”  Wale added.

However opposition leader and member of parliament for East Malaita Manasseh Maelanga disputed Wale’s idea when he was contributing to the bill yesterday.

“We all have cultures and traditions in this country and must be respected in whatever circumstances in relation to this clause 63 (3).

“A death in any community or village is always respected we cannot just go on with whatever we want if such circumstance arise during the election period,” Manasseh argued.

Minister for health and medical services and MP for Renbel Dr Kaitu’u Angikimua also made the same sentiment in support to the opposition leader.

“Our culture is still to be observed when it comes to situations like this,” Dr Angikimua said in the parliament yesterday.

“We have to respect the candidate’s family and also his supporters so the commission must allow ample time for the people to mourn before a new date is set for them to cast their votes,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Bill 2018 debate received an overwhelming support from both side of the house including the independent side of the house.

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