21 Feb 2019

Fiji election seen as credible but action urged over mistrust

7:41 am on 21 February 2019

Fiji's election last year was credible but a lack of trust in the process needs to be addressed, international election observers say.

The Multinational Observer Group (MOG) has released its final report and recommendations after the 14 November poll.

The Mulitnational Observer Group hold a press conference in Suva

The Mulitnational Observer Group hold a press conference in Suva Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koroi Hawkins

The group, consisting of 77 observers from ten countries, said the process took place in a more open political space than the past and was transparent and credible overall, allowing "Fijians to exercise their vote freely".

However, in some quarters there was still a lack of trust, MOG said.

"The MOG considers that this remains an ongoing challenge that Fiji's electoral authorities must work actively to address, in partnership with Fiji's democratic institutions, political parties, civil society and citizens," the report stated.

The observers' 21 recommendations include allowing political party identification on election material and a bigger role for civil society in educating voters.

MOG also suggested Fiji develop guidelines for the government to operate in caretaker mode before an election "to reinforce public confidence in a level electoral playing field".

Strengthening electoral institutions, clarifying the campaign period and reviewing rules and penalties for the media were also among the suggestions for future elections.

MOG also recommended allowing domestic observers to play a role and a review of electoral offences "to ensure penalties are proportionate and generally civil in nature rather than criminal".

It praised the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) preparations for the poll as well as the systems in place for vote counting.

"The FEO performed its role expertly and is now a well-consolidated and sustainable electoral administration, " MOG reported.

"Some minor issues became apparent with the voter lists especially in pre-polling but these did not significantly impact the election processes or outcome," MOG said.

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