Statement by the Chair of the Electoral Commission
Mr Suresh Chandra
Signing of MOU between NZEC and FEO and Handing over of
Cardboard Voting Booths
Venue: FEO HQ
Date: 21/10/21
Time: 2pm

The CEO of New Zealand Electoral Commission, Ms Alicia Wright
The New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Excellency, Mr Jonathan Curr
The Supervisor of Elections
The team from the Fijian Elections Office
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ni sa Bula Vinaka and a very warm welcome to you all. A special welcome to our counterparts in New Zealand via Zoom. It’s good to see you Alicia and team.

Today marks a very auspicious day as we strengthen the partnership between our agencies with the extension of our Memorandum of Understanding. Our longstanding partnership, support and cooperation continues.

We will also receive the generous donation of 2,000 boxes of Cardboard Voting Booths from the New Zealand Government. The Cardboard voting screens are a recent feature in Fijian Elections. You will note that the FEO has been using cardboard voting screens in polling stations around the country since 2014. These lightweight, convenient, yet durable platforms are directly suited to the demands of the terrain and transport in Fiji. These are much easier to store, setup, fold back and transport in comparison to the large wooden compartments and the cloth screen curtain. Ladies and Gentlemen, the cardboard voting screens are a classic example of innovation in elections. I would like to heartily thank the New Zealand Government  and the people of New Zealand for this support in kind towards the 2022 General Election.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Electoral Commission’s overall responsibility under Section 75 is to conduct free and fair elections in accordance with the  law. The Electoral Commission does this through the Fijian Elections Office. And the Electoral Commission wants this process to be done in applying  best international practices and standards. The Electoral Commission not only wants the elections to be free and fair, but wants it to be credible. It  wants the process and the service delivery to be of the highest possible standard. And to do this, as chairman, I recognize that there is no need to  reinvent the wheel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, each country is unique in terms of context. Unique in terms of our capacities. The capacities in elections that have been built  in NZ can be useful for Fiji simply through knowledge sharing. The question we ask simply is what do we know about elections and what do they know  about elections? How much experience do we have of elections? How much experience do they have? This is where the Pacific sharing comes in  place, the world wide based sharing of election best practices.

There is no one standard definition for democracy, it’s a continuously evolving concept. So as the Electoral Commission, this partnership adds value  to the election that we will be having.

Whilst there may be some instances where there are circumstances unique to Fiji, there are global issues and  challenges in elections that are not limited to or specific to any one country alone. For instance, the constant battle with misinformation is no longer a  feature unique only to developing democracies, but it is something that is now gripping developed democracies as well. The second is the motivating of voters to come forward and vote.  Turning interest into participation, converting disinterest into interest. These are now things that are universal to all EMBs. Then the global  challenges of cyber terrorism and risks with technology continue to grow and require sharing of experiences and successes as well as lessons learnt.

The challenges seem substantial, but we can overcome or even manage these threats through collaboration. This partnership between our two entities will be a major contributing factor in approaching these challenges.

Ladies and gentlemen, just like the 2018 General Election, we want the 2022 General Election to be a platform for Fijians to express their will with  confidence, security and freedom. Heading into the polls the Electoral Commission is committed to ensuring that this sentiment of the Commission is translated into action.

Following the continued support from our counterparts in New Zealand and the NZ High Commission in Fiji, we are certain that this contribution will greatly allow the realization of our goals.

With those few words ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for your attendance.

Vinaka Vakalevu.