The Multinational Observer Group (MOG) released its final report on the 2018 Fijian General Election on 20 February 2019. The report outlines the MOG’s findings and offers 21 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of future elections in Fiji.
Co-chaired by H.E. Wajid Fauzi from Indonesia, the Hon Jane Prentice MP from Australia and Mr Mukesh Sahu from India, and supported by more than 70 observers from ten countries, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the MOG observed a wide range of electoral processes and consulted extensively with key stakeholders.
In delivering the report, Co-Chair Fauzi congratulated Fiji on the overall conduct of the election.
“Our report and recommendations are based on the independent, objective and thorough observations our team made at more than 500 polling stations across Fiji and the extensive engagement the co-chairs and long-term observers had with stakeholders before and after the November poll,” said Mr Fauzi.
“The MOG found that the 2018 General Election was well-administered, with voting and counting transparent and credible. The environment was peaceful and the campaign competitive. Conditions overall supported Fijians to exercise their right to vote freely and the outcome broadly represented the will of the voters.
“We offer 21 recommendations in a constructive spirit to build on the achievements of this election. If implemented, these recommendations will support Fiji in its efforts to further strengthen its electoral system and institutions ahead of the next election in 2022.”
Co-Chair Sahu outlined some of the MOG’s recommendations, noting that democracy is an ongoing process of learning and building.
“The Electoral Commission plays a central role in Fiji’s electoral system, and we have recommended that it be provided with greater resources to deliver on its mandate more effectively. In addition, we believe measures to strengthen the Commission’s capacity and transparency will help build greater understanding of the Commission’s role and the electoral system, as well as build further trust among stakeholders and with the electorate,” said Mr Sahu.
“We have also recommended that some electoral laws be reviewed to ensure they do not unnecessarily inhibit voter participation in the electoral process and that the framework best supports voter understanding of the electoral system.
“The MOG has also assessed that public confidence in a level electoral playing field could be improved through the development of a code of conduct or caretaker conventions that would take effect from when the election Writ is issued.
“A consistent message from voters and other stakeholders during our consultations was that they would like to see party identification in official election material. The MOG agrees that this inclusion would be useful for voters and help make election material clearer to understand.”
The MOG’s report also includes recommendations that cover voter education activities and mechanisms to support civil society playing a greater role in electoral processes. It also proposes a review of the media regulatory framework both during the ‘blackout’ period before polling and during the broader electoral cycle.
Endorsing the comments of Co-Chairs Fauzi and Sahu, Co-Chair Prentice added that the 2018 election would prove a milestone in Fiji’s democratic progression.
“The election not only met a high standard in its technical and procedural aspects, it also demonstrated that important democratic norms, like transparency and diversity, continue to evolve in a positive direction in Fiji,” said Mrs Prentice.
“We are confident Fiji can build on these developments by strengthening key institutions and processes so as to enhance the trust of all stakeholders and at the same time support an increasingly informed electorate.
“The MOG came away with a strong sense of the commitment of the Fijian people to their democratic institutions. We are confident electoral democracy has a bright future in Fiji.”
The MOG’s report on the 2018 Fijian General Election is available here.