STATEMENT ON THE SINGLE-DAY POLL FROM THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND MINISTER RESPONSIBLE FOR ELECTIONS AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM

A single-day poll for Fiji’s 2014 General Election will promote integrity and transparency in the process, encourage voter turnout and keep costs down.

We make this statement on the basis of a wealth of international precedent and widely-accepted best practice.

Indeed, the Elections Office is working in close partnership with a number of international elections experts, all of whom agree that a single-day poll is not only possible, but is also the best option for Fiji.

Unfortunately, some politicians are trying to turn this into a political issue by making unfounded statements in order to call into question the legitimacy of the preparations for elections.

The facts are as follows. First, a single-day poll greatly decreases the chances for fraudulent behavior, in particular tampering with ballot boxes. In the past, keeping ballot boxes secure and maintaining proper chain-of-custody records during their transport were big problems that in many cases weakened voters’ confidence in the veracity of the election results.

In 2014, full ballot boxes will not be transported long distances or stored for extended periods. After voting closes on election day, all votes will be counted – and the results announced – at the polling centre in full view of the public, election observers, and party scrutinisers. This will greatly enhance the transparency of the process and will boost voters’ confidence in the results.

Second, a single-day poll improves voter turnout by creating a greater sense of national occasion. It promotes a high level of excitement surrounding a day of special importance, the feeling of being part of a significant national undertaking. A multiple-day poll can actually dilute this sense of significance and importance.

Third, contrary to the claims of a number of politicians, a single-day poll is actually less expensive and logistically challenging than a multiple-day poll. The single-day poll will require around 2,000 polling stations (up from 1,148 in 2006). Yes, this means that more staff will have to be hired than in the past, but they will work fewer days. All other overhead costs – such as fuel, housing, transportation, electricity – will be less as well. This goes for the costs of political parties too.

It is also worth noting that the Elections Office will have to cater for more registered voters than at any other time in our nation’s history, and this is reflected in the estimated costs. In 2006, just shy of 480,000 Fijians were registered to vote. In the lead-up to the 2014 election, already 543,000 Fijians have registered to vote and there are still more eligible voters who have not yet registered.

And, of course, more polling stations mean much more convenience for voters in terms of finding a location close to where they live or work.

Finally, although the cost of a single-day poll is less than that of a multiple-day poll, we want to state very clearly that this Government will not compromise on standards or in anyway jeopardise the integrity of the process in order to save a few dollars. A free and fair election is our absolute priority.

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