PETITION TIME IS ON

Candidates, electors have 30 days to file, starting May 3

BY NED GAGAHE

The period for election petitions is on.

The election petition timeframe of 30 days began when the Electoral Commission (SIEC) officially announced the gazette election results on its website on Friday, May 3.

The window for election petition closes at midnight on Saturday, June 1, 2024.

SIEC confirmed yesterday to Island Sun that the window of 30 days for candidates participating in the joint election to lodge petitions with the High Court of Solomon Islands is now active.

According to Electoral Act election petitions can be filed within 30 days after the gazette to officially open this process to allow those who were not happy with the election results to file a petition seeking legal interpretation and action.

In accordance with Electoral Act, election petitions are permissible within a 30-day window following the gazette publication.

This process formally initiates the avenue for aggrieved candidates or individuals to lodge petitions, seeking legal action regarding the election results.

In the 2024 joint election, a notable participation was observed with a total of 334 candidates contested for seats across the 50 constituencies in the parliamentary elections.

Additionally, for the provincial and HCC wards, with the exception of Duidui Ward in South Guadalcanal a total of 905 candidates contested, comprising 816 candidates for provincial assemblies and 89 for the HCC. Initially, Duidui Ward had seven candidates nominated for the election.

Addressing queries regarding petition in a media conference on April 24, Jasper Anisi, the Chief Electoral Officer of SIEC, emphasised that individuals, including voters and candidates, retain the right to lodge an election petition through the High Court of Solomon Islands, challenging issues of undue election.

He said such petitions undergo transparent proceedings within the open court system, ensuring fairness and accountability in the electoral process.

“In accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, every individual retains the right to engage in the legal processes outlined within it.

“The Act outlines the permissible types of petitions that can be lodged to challenge electoral outcomes.

Emphasising the significance of this process, Anisi stressed that the High Court will ultimately decide on the merits of such complaints or allegations.

He said should the court find them lacking in substance, they reserve the authority to dismiss them (claims) as frivolous, meaning claims which are devoid of any arguable basis.

Meanwhile, Island Sun also understands that publication of gazette notice also initiates the beginning of the 90 days period for submission of candidates’ election campaign expenses.

“Within 90 days after the publication of an election result, a candidate in the election must submit to the CEO a statement of account specifying:

“(a) all expenses incurred by the candidate in relation to the candidate’s campaign for election; and

“(b) the source of all funds (including the amount received from each source) used to meet those expenses.

On Friday May 3, SIEC published the official results and gazetted copies of the 2024 joint election, on its official website www.siec.gov.sb.

According to the Electoral Act 2018: PART 8 PETITIONS RELATING TO ELECTIONS AND MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

Section 108: Election petition

(1) An “election petition” is a petition to the Court (other than a status petition or vacancy petition) in which a person complains that a member of Parliament for a constituency was not validly elected.

(2) The following persons are entitled to file an election petition:

(a) an elector in the constituency to which the petition relates;

(b) a candidate for the election in the constituency.

(3) An election petition must be filed within 30 days after the result of the election is published under section 107.

(4) The Court may, when hearing an election petition, order the returning officer for the constituency to do any of the following:

(a) produce any invalid ballot papers;

(b) open and produce a sealed packet of counterfoils of used ballot papers;

(c) produce any counted ballot papers;

(d) produce any tendered ballot papers and the tendered votes list.

(5) Without limiting the circumstances in which the Court may find that an election is void, the Court must declare the election of a candidate void if it finds that the candidate was not qualified for election or was disqualified at the time of the election.

Section 109:  Status petition

(1) A “status petition” is a petition (other than an election petition or vacancy petition) on a question as to the right of a person to be a member of Parliament.

(2) The following persons are entitled to file a status petition:

(a) an elector;

(b) the Attorney-General.

(3) If the Court decides that a person who is a member of Parliament is not entitled to remain a member of Parliament, the person ceases to be a member on the date of the decision.

Section 110: Vacancy petition

(1) A “vacancy petition” is a petition (other than an election petition or status petition) on a question as to whether the seat of a member of Parliament has become vacant.

(2) The following persons are entitled to file a vacancy petition:

(a) a member of Parliament;

(b) the Attorney-General.

(3) If the Court decides that the seat of a member of Parliament has become vacant, the seat becomes vacant on the date of the decision.

Section 111: Procedures and rules for petitions

(1) The Court:

(a) must hear and decide a petition under this Part in open court; but

(b) may dismiss a petition without a hearing if:

(i) the petition is frivolous or vexatious; or

(ii) there are insufficient grounds to warrant the hearing of the petition.

(1A) The Court must decide a petition under this Part within 12 months after it is filed.

(2) The decision of the Court on a petition under this Part is final.

(3) The Chief Justice may, subject to this Act, make rules of practice and procedure in relation to petitions under this Part.

(4) Subject to rules made under subsection (3):

(a) the procedure at the hearing of an election petition, must (as near as possible) be the same (and the Court has the same powers, jurisdiction, and authority) as if it were a civil action; and

(b) witnesses:

(i) may be summoned and sworn in the same manner as in the hearing of a civil action; and

(ii) are subject to the same penalties for perjury.

(5) The Court must give a certificate of its decision on a petition under this Part to the Commission, the Governor-General and the Speaker.

Section 112: Non-compliance with this Act

(1) This section applies if it is established during a hearing of an election petition that, in relation the election concerned, there was:

(a) a failure to comply with the time required for doing anything under this Act; or

(b) an omission or irregularity in filling out a form required under this Act; or

(c) a lack of or defect in the appointment of an electoral official or polling or counting agent; or

(d) an absence of, or mistake or omission or breach of duty by, an electoral official before, during, or after polling.

(2) The Court must not declare the election invalid only because of the matter mentioned in subsection (1) if the Court is satisfied that:

(a) the registration of electors and the conduct of the election substantially complied with the Constitution, this Act and any other written law; and

(b) the matter mentioned in subsection (1) did not affect the result of the election.

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