What lies ahead

AS the curtain falls on 2013, a new dawn rises for the people of Fiji.

2014 is the year of our vote.

After the announcement of the 2014 General Election by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, we look forward to deciding who we want to lead our nation in the next five years.

The race will heat up in the next few weeks with political parties holding their meetings and deciding on their candidates.

Bread and butter issues are expected to top the agenda this year as putting food on the tables daily are often top of the priorities in political parties’ manifesto.

And there are promises by those in the race to govern the country after the elections, which is scheduled to be held before September, on just what it will take to ensure people live a decent, affordable life.

Commodore Bainimarama has stated that he will contest the elections under a yet-to-be-named party.

He has assured Fijians that he will step down as military commander at a time he forms his political party and joins the race for parliament.

There are four registered political parties that have started their groundwork in preparation for the much-anticipated election.

Fiji Labour Party, Social Democratic Liberal Party (formerly SDL), National Federation Party and newcomer People’s Democratic Party have registered.

Aspiring candidates for the FLP, SODELPA and PDP have started meeting people in their areas while the NFP says it is awaiting the announcement of electoral legislation and Supervisor of Elections.

However, the NFP says it has been setting up branches in the country while everyone waits for the announcement of the legislation and other things.

The FLP was the first political party to release a mini-manifesto in September to tell people what areas it will work on if it wins the election.

On the other hand, SODELPA is working on its manifesto.

The PDP is also yet to release its manifesto but it has a policy document that it is working on.

Some people have also stated that they will contest this year’s election as independent candidates and they are also doing their groundwork.

In a statement last week, the Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said more Fijians were registered to vote now than at any time in the history of our nation.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this was because of the efforts of the Elections Office and the use of the new electronic voter registration system.

As of the end of November, about 540,000 Fijians had registered to vote in this year’s election.

“This registration process is more successful, transparent and precise than any before. It is designed to avoid the anomalies and fraud that took place in past elections,” said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum in the statement.

“It is a national issue of interest to all Fijians, regardless of individual political preferences.

“The voter registration effort that is being conducted throughout Fiji and including the tens of thousands of Fijians living overseas is an ongoing outreach program that has received positive feedback from Fijians, our development partners and international commentators.

“The results so far — the National Register of Voters — is available to everyone. Fijians can verify their information online as well,” said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

This year, the elections office plans another phase of voter registration to sign up all eligible Fijians who want to vote, including those who have only recently turned 18.

As we bid farewell to 2013, we salute all those who endeavoured to make life a little less stressful than the previous trying years.

Citizens look forward to the next 12 months.

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