No by-election for Temotu Vatud seat

Solomon Islands coat of arms on Parliament buildings in Honiara. Picture: RNZ

HONIARA, 17 OCTOBER 2018 (SOLOMON STAR) – No by-elections will be held in Temotu Vatud Constituency, despite its MP Freda Tuki losing the seat following last week’s Solomon Islands High Court ruling.

That’s according to the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC).

In his judgment dated 8 October, Justice Rex Faukona ruled in favour of the Petitioner Clay Forau, ruling that the election of Mrs Tuki be declared void.

“The Commission met on Friday 12 October 2018, as soon as it had received a copy of the judgment, to discuss the issue of whether or not a by-election should be held to fill the vacant seat,” SIEC said in a statement.

“The commission as a result decided that there will be no by-election due to a number of reasons,” the statement added.

“Part 5 Division 1 of the Electoral Act 2018 sets out the process for the key dates in the conduct of an election. Of particular interest in this case, section 58(3) requires the Governor-General’s Gazette Notice to be published at least 56 days before the election date.

“Even if the Governor-General was to issue his formal Notice now, the calculation of days would see a by-election to be around mid-December, a time around when Parliament will dissolve;rendering it futile for any incoming MP.”

SIEC said any new MP elected for the Vatud constituency would have no time to take up his/her role.

SIEC further explained that another issue is with the Voter List.

“There will be no new List of Voters for any Constituency, including Temotu Vatud until early January 2019.

“There is the 2014 Voter List and while this could be used, it is now more than four years out of date.”

SIEC also noted budget as another issue.

“The most recent by-election, for Gizo and Kolombangara, amounted to some $800,000 and securing adequate and timely funds for a by-election at this late stage in the budget cycle, and in the current Parliament’s life, is highly unlikely.

“The SIEC certainly does not have a surplus to be able to conduct such an event without further Government support.”

Given all the above circumstances, SIEC agreed that there should be no by-election in the Temotu Vatud Constituency as a result of this petition outcome.

SIEC noted that late judgement on future petitions will be rare given the new Electoral Act 2018, (s.111 (1A) which requires the Court to decide a petition within 12 months after it is filed.

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