The National Federation Party President, Roko Tupou Draunidalo is calling for greater scrutiny over the Elections Office’s surge into new technologies in readiness for the 2018 Elections, especially the results system.
The NFP President said that the dissemination of results must comply with the provisions of the Electoral Decree where there is stringent compliance with the verification process, which includes verification by party and candidate agents.
“The dissemination of results is not a competition nor a race and therefore we caution the Supervisor of Elections to learn from the lessons of 2014 and resist issuing provisional results through a mobile app of which he is now talking about, without the highest standards of integrity and verification as outlined in the Electoral Decree.”
Ms Draunidalo also called on the Electoral Commission to ensure that it has oversight over any proposal to use new technology, particularly in the compilation of the results as it falls directly in their ambit of responsibility.
“The integrity and accuracy of the results disseminated is paramount – not the convenience and the competitiveness of issuing out results in the shortest possible time.”
Ms Draunidalo also urged the Electoral Commission to ensure that the current voter registration process has their oversight.
“It is important to keep in mind that it is the Electoral Commission that has direct oversight over the registration of voters as per section 75(2) and 76(2) of the Constitution.
The Supervisor must take his directions on these priorities from the Commission and we would suggest that they leave the fancy, frilly bits down the ladder of electoral priorities. Start with the basics.”
The Supervisor of Elections also publicly stated earlier this year that there is a GPS initiatve and that this initiative ‘will also highlight the different polling venues and give certain details such as the total number of voters and polling stations’.
“We have not seen any validation for such a need given that the Elections Offices’ 2015-2019 Strategic Plan did not identify issues about people getting lost. In fact the Elections Office praised the high voter turnout claiming that 84% of the total voters registered, did in fact participate.
What political parties like the NFP do need to know is whether the Elections Office Strategic Plan objective of ensuring best count mechansisms are in place by 2018 so that “the results management systems will compile and produce results from all polling station’s”, are linked to the GPS initiative because these technologies while at first glance appears to aid voters – are very dependent on mobile technology and internet connectivity.
It is no secret that for rural voters where many remote polling stations are located, internet availability remains limited and costly. In fact internet connectivity in Fiji is still pegged at under 50% for the population” added the NFP President.
“Furthermore, other more important and urgent needs with regard to the electoral process are raised in the two reports before the parliamentary committee and addressing those issues ought to be of top priority for the Commission down to the Supervisor.
“While technology aids automation and convenience, the ballot papers and the manual processes before data capture needs to be a separate and transparent process that political parties can observe and be confident about.
Political parties and candidates as key stakeholders in the elections, must be privy to these developments including the full suite of technology measures that will be utilised during the 2018 elections.
We call on the Electoral Commission to provide this guidance as per their mandate under the law.”