Report from Pacific Media Watch
By Glenda Willie in Port Vila
Transparency International Vanuatu has called on all candidates in today’s snap election to act with integrity and support the rule of law.
“Citizens of Vanuatu should be able to vote … knowing that the election will be free and fair and that the candidates will commit to transparency and accountability,” said Dr Willie Tokon, chair of TIV.
The anti-corruption agency encourages future Members of Parliament to work with civil society to build greater civic awareness and to ensure all the citizens are empowered and informed to fully participate in their community responsibilities.
Vanuatu’s political system requires substantial reforms in order to be both representative and responsible to its citizens, said Dr Tokon. The future government must, as a first priority, take action to:
* Develop laws to regulate political parties and independent candidates for election, and in particularly regulate party finances and campaign finances.
* Implement an accurate electoral roll and voting system, which is not subject to abuse
* Revise the Standing Orders of Parliament, regulation of members’ allocations and rules about the use of motions of no confidence motions
* Revise the Ombudsman Act and Leadership Code Act to expand the Ombudsman’s powers and ensure that there are consequences for breaches of the Leadership Code
* Enact the Right to Information Bill and revised the Government Act to ensure of transparency of the executive and allow citizens to hold the government to account.
On electoral processes, TIV is also calling on the next government to ensure the integrity of the electoral system by verifying the electoral roll, preferably through a computerised voting system, to ensure that voters are correctly identified at polling stations.
“The Representation of the People Act must be revised, based on feedback received from elections observer reports dating back to 2002, ” TIV said.
Reforms should include a review of the electoral cards and proxy voting system, which today is open to abuse and a review of provisional voting procedures. There should also be a debate on whether voting should be compulsory and whether there should be a set time frame for Parliament to decide electoral petitions.