By Nasik Swami
The Fiji Times. Friday, March 10, 2017
THE National Federation Party (NFP) and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) say the Electoral Commission should address key electoral issues that confront the nation ahead of the 2018 polls rather than increasing the number of seats in Parliament.
NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad said increasing the number of seats was a “cosmetic exercise” and does not address the fundamental concerns that the party had consistently raised regarding creating a level playing field for all political parties to ensure a truly credible, free and fair election.
“Unless and until that happens and recommendations of the Multinational Observer Group and Electoral Commission’s annual report are not adopted, we will not have electoral integrity,” he claimed.
He said the only thing the decision by the Electoral Commission probably confirmed was that the general election would be held in April next year.
“This is because under Section 54 (2) of the 2013 Constitution, any review by the Electoral Commission must be made at least one year before the next general election.
“It is obvious that the commission used the 2007 census and the Register of Voters because the most recent census was ten years ago as the 2017 census is yet to be conducted.”
FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry said increasing the number of seats by one was inconsequential.
“It will not add value to the current system of representation,” he said.
Mr Chaudhry said one of the important tasks the commission should undertake was to replace the single nationwide constituency arrangement with single/multi-member constituencies.
“Under the current system, parliamentarians are not accountable to the voters of any particular area.
“People are unhappy with this system. They want their own area MPs who they can hold accountable and turn to when in need. Opposition political parties have already called for the recommendations of the Multinational Observer Group on the 2014 General Election to be implemented as well as those in the Electoral Commission’s 2014 report.”
Commission chairman Suresh Chandra said the commission was empowered by Section 54 of the Constitution to alter the number of seats in Parliament.