21 Sep 2014

Fiji election fraud dismissed but protest continues

10:21 am on 21 September 2014

Fiji's Electoral Commission has dismissed most of the claims of irregularities by five political parties who are running in the Fiji election.

The parties have presented their evidence of unsecured ballot papers and reported other irregularities including ballot box tampering, broken seals and extra material in the boxes.

Earlier they complained of systematic fraud in the election and said they would reject the result which is expected on Sunday.

The chairman of the Commission Chen Bunn Young says there was a logical explanation for most of the claims including those of ballot papers being loose in a car boot on polling day.

"The documents which appear in the photograph were not ballot papers I can assure you. They were actually contracts that had to be delivered to all the polling officers for them to sign, so they were contracts of employment which were being delivered that particular afternoon."

But the commissioner asked for more details of the other claims so they could be investigated.

"They also suggested that some of the (ballot box) seals were broken. I'm told that in transit sometimes the seal does get broken and so we admit that that is the case. But it did not affect the integrity of the ballot box," he said.

He said the Commission admitted earlier the election was not going to be perfect and what he described as minor discrepancies could be learnt from.

"It's a far cry from the earlier allegation it was corrupt and unlawful practices."

Chen Bunn Young says that allegation lacks substance and has damaged the reputation of the Elections Office.

The Elections Supervisor Mohammed Saneem said the parties' motives had to be questioned.

The Labour Party has called for a recount saying the process has been manipulated.

"I really don't know what they're complaining about," said the prime minister Frank Bainimarama who paid a visit to the Electoral Commission on Saturday.

His FijiFirst party is heading for a comfortable majority in the 50-member parliament.

"All I've been told is there's been some allegations of vote-rigging. I don't know if they have any proof, but I think I'll leave it to the Electoral Commission."

A senior official with the Sodelpa party Pio Tabaiwalu said Sodelpa party scrutineers walked away from the job observing the count on Saturday in protest.