Changes to election law

Parliament accepts amendments, passes Constitutional Amendment Electoral Reform Bill 2018

By Gary Hatigeva

THE Government’s electoral reform laws have passed through both houses of parliament, after politicians spent more than two weeks debating the changes in the chamber.

This was done after the bill came through slight turmoil due to disagreements from members of the Independent and Opposition groups, who thought certain changes that were included in the bill are unacceptable.

The nine clause (section) bill (Act) is to amend the Constitution in relation to electoral matters, and had proposed to regulate the registration of electors and the election of members of the National Parliament and for related purposes.

Its objects and reasons are to repeal and replace the National Parliament Electoral Provisions Act (Cap.87), to improve the registration system of electors, to further regulate nomination process of candidates, to further improve the conduct of voting, to improve the counting process and to ensure there is a comprehensive range of electoral offences with appropriate penalties.

Additionally, it intends to provide an additional requirement that a candidate for election be a registered elector and to allow an Act to prescribe the term “ordinarily resident”; furthermore, to provide for a 12 month stand down period for a member of the Electoral Commission or staff to involved in the election process if he or she intends to stand as a candidate.

The Bill also caters for the increase of membership of the Electoral Commission to five members who will also deal with registration of political parties currently undertaken by the Political Parties Commission under the Political Parties Integrity Act 2014.

Other areas that however received heavy opposition from those from the other side of the house includes the merger of the Political Parties Commissioner, which exists under the Political Parties Integrity Act, and the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission.

Opposition and Independent groups have also rejected proposals for the establishment of a new position of Commissioner of Elections as the administrative head of the merged office that was projected to be responsible for elections and will also act as the Registrar for Political Parties under the Political Parties Integrity Act 2014.

A division was put to order for the final voting of the bill after its third reading and the speaker pointed out that based on the constitution, and requirements are too be followed in order to vote on any changes into any section of the national constitution.

The bill was then passed after it was again put to vote and the house used section 61 of the constitution to get a three quarter of the house, with an equivalent of 38 members, which was just the exact number received in the end, and the bill was passed.

In its second reading before it was committed to the Committee of the Whole House for its proceedings, a similar vote was ordered and 39 votes were received in support of the bill.

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