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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Voter Education through Youth Engagement

The Fijian Elections Office [FEO] Conducts the Biggest Election in a Non-Election Year through Youth Engagement FEO is an independent electoral management body established in March 2014 under the Electoral Decree, 2014. The FEO’s role is to deliver credible Elections in line with international best practices.

The 2014 General Election was conducted after a lapse of eight [8] years under a new electoral system; Open List Proportional Representation. The FEO organised the Fijian General Election for the new 50-member Parliament under the 2013 Constitution. The Multi-national Observer Group [MOG] highlighted that the 2014 General Election in Fiji was credible and broadly represented the will of the Fijian people and saw the lowest number of invalid votes in Fiji’s history – 0.75%.

The low number of invalid votes amongst those voting demonstrated the strength of the new electoral system, which gave every registered voter a single vote in a multi-member national constituency. Fiji recorded an impressive 84.6% voter turnout during the 2014 General Election.

The FEO conducted the election for the Fiji National University Students Association [FNUSA], marking the formalization of months of preparatory work by the student steering committee and laying the foundation for the formation of the first ever Student Association within the university.

The election itself was the largest ever conducted by FEO outside of an election year, spanning ten different campuses and involving about 3,301 voters. The contested positions were of the President, Treasurer, Secretary, Public Relations Officer, Social and Cultural Chairperson, Assets Chairperson, Education Chairperson, Sports Chairperson and Religious Chairperson, which were to be selected from a pool of thirty-two candidates.

The Fiji National University’s campuses located in the Central, Western and Northern Divisions: Ba, Derrick, Koronivia, Labasa, Lautoka, Pasifika, Nabua, Namaka, Nasinu and Tamavua were covered.

The FEO recognizes that there is a need to develop capacity in elections in Fiji, not only for FEO staff, but for all Fijians. On 2 August 2016, the Fijian Minister responsible for Elections, exercising his power pursuant to section 154 of the Electoral Decree 2014, approved a request from the Office of the Chancellor of the Fiji National University [FNU] for the FEO to conduct FNUSA Elections.

Formed in 2010, The FNU campuses, either had student associations that were not very active or they lacked such associations entirely.
The FNU was formed in 2010 by bringing together various different schools and colleges throughout the country under the FNU umbrella. These schools, now called Campuses, either had student associations that were not very active or they lacked such associations entirely.

Following the approval, FEO immediately began preparing for the election.
The FEO implemented the following basic principles, which have consistently developed good electoral practices in small scale elections in Fiji to bring about consistency and high standards:
i. clear and accurate timelines for elections processes;
ii. an accurate voter list;
iii. a proper and independent nomination process;
iv. a transparent and impartial polling process; and
v. timely reconciliation of results and naming of office bearers.

The FEO prepared a proposed timeline for the election which was presented to the FNU team, as well as the representatives from the student-led Steering Committee. Once the proposed timeline was agreed, FEO advertised the Notice for the opening of nominations for the ten campuses.
At the close of Nominations period, it was found that many of the positions were returned uncontested. Those positions were immediately announced, however, there were twelve [12] positions from four [4] campuses that were contested and which required the FEO to conduct campus elections.

The 2016 FNUSA Election was conducted in line with recognized electoral best practices, which included:
1. The appointment of Mr Mesake Dawai, FEO’s Review and Compliance Officer, as Returning Officer, to create an independent and impartial electoral environment. Mr Dawai was also able to act as a conduit between the FNU and the Steering Committee during the process to ensure all stakeholders were able to cooperate and support the process.
2. The publication of election notices in the media, which enhanced voter access and boosted interest in the election.
3. The campaign guidelines in the FNUSA regulations that helped foster a peaceful, ethical and calm electoral environment.
4. FEO’s implementation of a standard Nomination Form for all Candidates. This allowed for appropriate vetting, as per the Constitution, and greater transparency, in case a nominee wished to appeal the decision of the Returning Officer.
5. The Office of the Registrar at FNU’s submission of a list of eligible members who were entitled to vote in the election five weeks prior to the election. This comprehensive list assisted the FEO in determining the validity of Nominations.
6. The “barrel draw” conducted by the FEO to determine the order of candidates on the ballot paper. This event was open to all candidates and other stakeholders.
7. The FEO’s Postal Voting and Attendance Voting programmes ensured maximum access for students. The polling stations were open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all four campuses. Postal voting was available to those students who were on industrial attachments on the day of elections.
8. The Polling Place setup replicated the General Election Setup, and the polling materials were the same as the General Election. The FEO did not use indelible ink in this election, as there was only one voter list and only one polling place – this is sufficient to prevent double voting in a small scale election.
9. The 12,000 ballot papers printed by the FEO for this election. Printing was done in-house and it was decided that different positions up for election would be assigned different color ballot papers. Depending on the polling locations, voters received up to five different ballots to select candidates.
10. An open ballot counting held on Wednesday, 26 October 2016 at venues assigned by the FNU. The counting was widely covered by the media.
11. The formal announcement was made through the media, to the Steering Committee, the Registrar’s Office and all the candidates following the Count.

According to FNU Vice Chancellor, Professor Nigel Healey, it is in the interests of students to have a very strong representative student body, and the FNUSA is now more qualified than ever to speak on behalf of students.
He added that it is very important that there is a student association that actually provides services to students – that is actually supporting them. People come to university, not just for an education, they come in for a holistic experience.
A token of appreciation was also presented to Mr Mesake Dawai, from the FNU during the FNUSA Inauguration on 26 November 2016.
The FNU Acting Vice Chancellor, Dr Eci Nabalarua, said the University carried out this election in partnership with FEO to conduct a transparent poll to elect the inaugural FNU student body.
She added that FNU acknowledges the contribution of the FEO in facilitating the campus election and is grateful for a smooth and transparent election process.
It is vital that an understanding of electoral systems is imparted to the youth, as the future of the country, so that they can uphold the values of a democratic system.

1. Formulating election standards, given that there were no regulations governing the procedural conduct of FNU elections and the Draft FNUSA Constitution only contained guidelines for candidacy. In response, the FEO decided to derive the procedures for the conduct of the election based on standards previously implemented in the successful Trade Union Elections.
2. Availability of students on Election Day or low voter turnout. Most students were not aware of elections taking place with some students being away on industrial work attachments.
3. Some voters were turned away as their names were not present on the voter list as FEO relied on the list given by the University.
1. The 2016 FNUSA Election was conducted in line with recognized electoral best practices.
2. The FEO maintained constant contact with student leaders to ensure they understood the processes involved resulting in direct capacity development.
3. Throughout the election, media organisations demonstrated consistent interests in the electoral process and outcome. They actively reported on the elections and showed a strong commitment to supporting election events. Their invaluable support played a major role in publicizing candidates in the media – adding a layer of excitement and encouragement for those young people interested in pursuing politics.
4. During the electoral process, the FEO worked in close conjunction with the Vice Chancellor’s Office at the FNU, which provided all the necessary information and logistical support that made the electoral process a success.
1. Compilation of Voter list required FNU to make exceptions to the university policies on release of student details.
2. General nature of the FNUSA electoral rules created some ambiguity at various stages of the process.
3. Low turnout due to inappropriate timings for elections in some campuses.
1. Enhance the participation of students in the processes involved in elections.
2. Establish better means of awareness amongst students.
3. Allocate dates for elections during normal lecture schedules.
1. Lack of interest from students in participating in the voting process.
2. Candidates and voters not understanding the electoral process.
The first election for the FNUSA presented the FEO with an opportunity to directly engage and at the same time demonstrate the running of elections to young voters. Students of the FNU were able to participate in elections that were officially organized by the country’s Electoral Management Body [EMB]. In reciprocation, this exercise contributed to building confidence in the EMB and the electoral process the EMB conducts Whilst majority of the positions in most campuses were returned uncontested in this election, it is envisaged that the experience from this election will certainly promote participation in future elections as the FNUSA grows older. The FEO will continue its engagement with the executives of the FNUSA and promote good leadership practices as well as electoral awareness in this one of the larger University in Fiji. The FEO is a strong advocate in the electoral development of young Fijians with youths being one of our most important stakeholders. The FNUSA Election provided us with an opportunity to promote understanding and participation of the best electoral practices amongst our young leaders.

NewsLetterBarrel draw conducted by the FEO to determine the order of candidates on the ballot paper.
NewsLetterFEO’s Returning Officer for the FNUSA Election, Mr Mesake Dawai, with the token of appreciation from FNU
NewsLetterFNU Chancellor, Mr Iqbal Jannif, presents the token of appreciation to FEO’s Returning Officer for the FNUSA Election, Mr Mesake Dawai
NewsLetterFNU students casting their votes during the FNUSA Election on 25 October 2016
FNU students casting their votes to elect their Student Association representatives.

Mr Mesake Dawai
Fijian Elections Office