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5% Threshold Bomb Ticking Away

13/10/2018

The 5% Threshold Bomb Ticking Away

 

If 40,000 voters for the 2018 Elections were told that straight after they had placed their votes in ballot boxes,  their ballot papers would be secretly changed and given to the largest parties, they would be rightly outraged.

The honorable members of the Fiji Electoral Commission would passionately deny that they were engaging in such elections skullduggery.

The diligent members of the Multinational Observer Group would rub their hands in glee to find some evidence of elections rigging to justify their paid holiday in the tourism paradise of Fiji.

But of course they won’t, because such “vote rigging” is not obvious, even if it is effectively there.

Because this elections rigging is quietly and legally conducted by the “5% threshold” rule which is embedded in the 2014 Electoral Act which is part of the 2013 Constitution imposed on Fiji by the Bainimarama Government.

The 5% Threshold

According to the 2014 Electoral Act, after the votes are cast and counted in total, the Elections Office will determine what constitutes 5% of total votes cast.

If we take the latest number of registered voters given by the Fiji Elections Office (around 620,000) and assume that there may be about an 85% voter turnout, then this 5% threshold will amount to around 27,000 votes.

Any political party or Independent which fails to achieve this 27,000 votes, will be disqualified from being elected to Parliament.

In the 2014 Elections some 36,000 votes were cast for the smaller parties and independents.

These 36,000 votes were therefore disqualified by the 5% threshold rule, and their value made equal to zero.

But you would be wrong if you concluded that these 36,000 votes were totally “wasted”.

Because these votes were not strictly wasted but the value transferred to the parties that qualified, because of the arithmetic of the vote counting.

Votes and Seats Transferred to FFP and SODELPA

Let us recap: the smallest parties and Independents received 36,000 votes.

Had they been one party, they would have obtained roughly 4 seats in Parliament (remember that NFP with 27,000 votes had received 3 seats).

But the allocation of seats in the Fiji Parliament is a “zero sum game”.

There are 51 seats to be allocated to the parties that qualify and satisfy the 5 threshold rule.

In 2014, there were only 3 parties which satisfied the 5% threshold:

Fiji First Party:            293,714 votes

SODELPA:                 139,857 votes

NFP:                             27,066 votes.

These three parties then effectively received the 50 seats in Parliament amongst them, and effectively shared the 4 seats which would, in a genuinely proportional system, have  gone to the 36,000 votes disqualified.

i.e. roughly, 3 of the seats representing disqualified voters went to Fiji First Party and 1 went to SODELPA.

Which also explains why neither of these two large parties have made the 5% threshold a big issue since the 2014 Elections.

But who designed the 5% threshold? The Bainimarama Government.

Who receives the bulk of the benefit?  The Bainimarama Government.

But can you call it “vote rigging”?

Whatever. In today’s Fiji, that is the “law”.

The electoral injustice

Remember the massive propaganda before the 2014 Elections:  1 person = 1 vote = 1 value?

Well the 5% threshold bomb makes nonsense of that claim.

Look at the large numbers of votes received by the small parties and 2 independents who were disqualified.

Most received far more votes than the many from FFP and SODELPA who qualified to become MPs, some with ridiculously low votes less than a thousand.

It will be the same again in the 2018 Elections – with one difference I write about below.

It is a tragedy that the tame former members of the Fiji Electoral Commission declined to make a public stand on the gross injustice that has been perpetrated on the voting public by this innocuous 5% threshold clause in the 2014 Electoral Act and the many other clauses, although one of them comments frequently and publicly on any number of uncontentious issues while the others have remained deathly quiet having done their dirty work.

Small Parties in the 2018 Elections?

In the 2018 Elections, there are even more small parties standing for elections.

Thank God there are no naive egotistical Independents this time with grand delusions based on social media personae that large numbers of Fiji voters will vote for them.

But I suspect that none of these small parties will be able to achieve the massive 5% threshold likely to be around 27,000 votes.

Which is why two of the small parties are forming a “coalition” to fight the elections but even that may not suffice.

What a pity that the other smaller parties are not going into “coalition” (even if it is allowed by our independent Supervisor of Elections who answers only to the Minister for Elections).

It would be a bigger tragedy if the new small parties draw their support away from the third smallest party, NFP, which is currently just over the 5% threshold.

The Great Leader or Yourself: a new game?

In the 2014 Elections, the elections campaign of the Fiji First Party focused as always intended on the one number “279”  allocated to Bainimarama who then obtained a massive 69% of all FFP votes (as also did one unknown with the number 297: ha ha ha).

In effect also elected under Bainimarama were a large number of FFP candidates with pathetically small numbers of votes, some less than 800.

But all FFP candidates in the 2018 Elections will now understand what they did not in the 2014 Elections that they must personally receive enough votes to be near the top of the FFP list of candidates by numbers of votes received, if they are to be elected.

They should note the few very canny FFP candidates in the 2014 Elections who ensured that they personally received enough votes- Aiyaz Khaiyum, Mahendra Reddy, Praveen Kumar, to make sure that they were above the cutoff point required to determine the 33 successful candidates from the FFP.

Getting votes for the Great Leader will not be enough this time.

 

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