‘Election body is still independent’

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THE Electoral Commission will still discharge its work independently although it will now operate under the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The body, which is responsible for administering and managing elections, used to be under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The commission’s Operation Manager, Freddie Bosoboe clarified this after its move from Home Affairs to PMO generated a lot of debate on social media.

Some claimed the assignment of Electoral Commission to OPMC is opened to political interference by the Prime Minister.

However, Bosoboe said the move is part of the administrative set up to fulfil the (Amendment) (Electoral Reform) Bill 2018 passed last year.

He said under the Amendment, the Chief Electoral Officer is now a constitutional post.

Bosoboe said all constitutional posts have to be aligned with the Prime Minister Office.

Furthermore, the Amendment allows the 3 members in the Electoral Commission to increase to 5 members.

Bosoboe said the Speaker of Parliament will no longer the chairman of the Electoral Commission in the Amendment.

“The Electoral Commission will consist of a Chairman, three members and the Commissioner of Elections appointed under Section 57.

“In the five members committee, there will be 2 female members,” he said.

Currently, the 3 members in the Electoral Commission are in the transition period until the appointment of the 5 new members.

Historically, Bosoboe said the Election Commission office started on ad hoc basis since the country gained Independence in 1978.

“In the past, government normally appoints workers in other Ministries to run elections.

“In 2001, the Election office moved into semi-permanent after the appointment of late John Babalu, who headed the department,” he said.

Therefore, Bosoboe said the assignment of Electoral Commission to OPMC is a sign of going into permanent administration where they will work full time.

Special Secretary to Prime Minister, Albert Kabui posted on social media that he found it fascinating that people on social media forums do not care if they are speculating or not.

He said the employment of section 37 of the Constitution by the Government to assign to the Prime Minister the responsibility for the conduct (subject to the provisions of this Constitution and any other law) of any business of the Electoral Commission, including responsibility for the administration of the Commission has drawn criticisms including conspiracy theories from commentators on social media.

Former Special Secretary to Prime Minister, Andrew Muaki said it is ‘constitutional’ because Section 37 of the Constitution gives the Governor General the power to assign departments or work to ministers and ministries upon the advice from the PM.