USA to strengthen democratic election

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By Alfred Sasako

TEAMS from the United States are due to arrive in Honiara early next month to map out Washington’s support for strengthening democratic elections and democracy in general in Solomon Islands.

The first team comprising IT experts will arrive on 2nd February, according to the Chief Electoral Officer, Mose Saitala.

“(they) will assess and take stock of our (electoral) Database system and how it can be improved to cope with changes to continuous voter registration, creation of Solomon Islands’ Electoral Commission (SIEC) provincial offices, combining the conduct of provincial and national elections on the same day (and) out-of-constituency voting.

“The second team will arrive a week later to assess more closely our technical requirements due to … major changes to the way SIEC will be  conducting election(s) in the future,” Mr. Saitala told Island Sun yesterday.

In December this year, the SIEC for the first time held a provincial election and a national bye-election in one day in the Makira/Ulawa Province. That trial reportedly went well.

The visits by the Americans early next month are in support of wide-ranging electoral reforms announced by the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) last month.

Among the proposed changes, an independent candidate will no longer be nominated to contest the position of Prime Minister.

At the same time section 66(2) of the Constitution shall be repealed, abolishing the position of the Leader of Independent Group in Parliament.

The SIEC say the proposed reforms would save costs.

“Cabinet will consider issues identified to entrench a political party system by way of the Constitution particularly the following:

i) Repeal section 66(2) of the Constitution [abolishing the position of the Leader of Independent Group] ii) Amend Schedule 2 of the Constitution to stipulate that:

“(a) An independent candidate is not allowed to be nominated as a candidate for the position of Prime Minister; and;

(b) Notwithstanding the existing procedure under this Schedule made pursuant to section 33(1), where a Coalition Agreement has been signed demonstrating that the total number of MPs in the Coalition is more than 50 per cent of elected MPs, the Governor General shall invite the Leader named in the Coalition Agreement to be sworn-in as Prime Minister,” the electoral reform strategy framework, said. 

Some 360, 000 people registered to vote in the 2019 National General Election, according to figures provided by the SIEC.

Of this figure, 86 per cent or 309, 600 actually cast their votes.

This could be misleading, given that double voting was allegedly widespread during the April 3 election.

Some 26 election petitions resulted and are pending before the High Court. Two have since been thrown out for largely lack of evidence.

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