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“Helping the Fiji Elections Office with Voter Education in 2005”

09/08/2016


Helping the Fiji Elections Office with Voter Education: 2005

VEK EnglishTowards the end of 2005, with the 2006 Elections looming, I decided to help the Elections Office with Voter Education, while also earning some income as an independent consultant.
In the elections of 1999 and 2001, Fiji had already seen the great confusion not just among voters but also among political parties, with the mechanics and implications of the Alternative Vote System bequeathed by the 1997 Constitution not understood at all, especially all the counting of votes above the line (for parties and votes distributed according to their party preferences) and below the line (with votes distributed exactly according to voter preferences).

I had done some voter education for Citizens Constitution Forum (CCF) for the 2001 elections, but it was not enough.
So after consulting with the Supervisor of Elections (Epeli Rabuka) I decided to do write up a “hands-on” Voter Education Kit (VEK) which I produced completely, including the final camera-ready copy, with tons of cartoons which the public will enjoy.

VEK FijianYou can read the VEK in English, here:
Voter Education Kit English

I also paid for a translation into Fijian (translated by  Ilisapeci Natau from the Elections Office and edited for free by Suliana Siwatibau);
Voter Education Kit Fijian

I also paid for the translation into Hindi by Sandhya Narayan (of Fiji Broadcasting Corporation).  They may be read here:
Voter Education Kit Hindi

The Voter Education Kits required the participants to act as “counting officers” counting all the votes, moving the preferences around, and determining who were the “winners”.  The kits also explained how the “multi-party government provision would work, or rather, ought to work in the ideal situation.

  VEK hindi    For  a total cost to the Elections Office of just under $27,000, I offered to conduct the “training of trainer” workshops at all the main urban centres around the country, with my proposal accepted by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission (Everett Graham Leung) and the Supervisor of Elections (Semesa Karavaki). Read my proposal here:
1 Agreement Letter to Supervisor of Elections Rabuka

My costs were paid for out of AusAID grants to the Elections Office.

The Vice President of Fiji (Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi) did the launching honors at the FTA Hall, with Chief Guest being the Ambassador of Japan, who had always been very supportive of my public education activities.  Ratu Joni’s speech is here:
Madraiwiwi Launching VEK 3 Nov 2005

MadraiwiwiThe NZ High Commissioner (the late Michael Green) was incredibly supportive and gave several grants both for the Voter Education Kit but also other education materials (see attached rather ironic photo with Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes and the Commander Voreqe Bainimarama).

The PS in the Prime Minister’s Office (Jioji Kotobalavu) ordered 200 sets for Mr Qarase and his SDL Party.

I conducted training workshops for several political parties and NGOs.

Post-script 1

Just before the elections, the Commander of the RFMF (Voreqe Bainimarama) also requested me to conduct a half-day workshop some 400 of all his senior officers at the Nabua camp, and another half-day on the economic problems facing Fiji and desirable policies.

Green Huges Bainimarama Wadan      In my introduction to economic policies and the need for a secure investment climate, I pointed out that the Commander of the RFMF must obey lawful authority.

      I was amazed when the Commander burst into a heated diatribe, whose significance I only understood when he did the December of 2006, which clearly had been planned well before.

Post-script 2

Of course the Alternative Vote system is now history in Fiji (thank goodness), but in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was extremely critical of winners being decided by preference votes, especially when some candidate or party with small first preference votes managed to get elected because of others preference votes. There was much rhetoric about parties wanting to give the real choice to voters, not parties. But the system was merely tinkered with.

Post-script 3

It is interesting that in the recent Australian elections for Senate, a Tasmanian ALP candidate (Lisa Singh) was not given the top preferences by her party but managed to convince her voters to give her preferences “below the line” and she won by a massive margom. Lisa Singh is the grand-daughter of an Indo-Fijian NFP MP (Ram Jati Singh) and neice of former NFP parliamentarian (Raman Pratap Singh).

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