By Ioane Asioli, Cooper Williams and Geraldine Panapasa of Wansolwara in Suva
Scores of people along the Nasinu-Suva corridor lined the premises of their designated polling stations as early as 6am today to cast their votes in the Fiji 2022 general election.
While polling venues opened at 7.30am, the light morning drizzle did little to deter voters from exercising their democratic right to vote.
As many as 693,915 Fijians have registered to vote in this year’s election, majority of voters are expected from the Central Division — 9916 had applied for postal ballot, while 77,907 Fijians registered to vote for pre-polling.
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At 7.15am, accredited media participated in a walk-through to take photos and videos at the Suva Grammar School polling station before the first vote was cast at 7.30am.
Last night, Supervisor of Election Mohammed Saneem urged employers to allow their employees to take at least half a day or the morning session to cast their vote after receiving concerns were raised by some employees that their employers were given them ultimatums to either turn up to work at 9am or ‘face the axe’.
“It is not proper for any employer to force their employees to come to work without having voted. Is not only unjust, but it is unconstitutional.
“I cannot apply Section 141 in this circumstance… I would like to invite every single employer in this country to consider Section 23 (2) of the Constitution which reads, ‘Every citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections for any elective institution or office established under this Constitution’.
“The Constitution does not make any allowance for any person to make law that will prohibit a person from voting. This means that neither Parliament nor an employer has the authority to stop a person from voting. They must allow their employees to vote,” Saneem said.
Voting time for employees
The Fijian Elections Office, he said, had been advocating for employers to allow employees to vote and then report to work.
He said the FEO would not hesitate to take people to court if necessary, if they did not allow employees to vote in the morning, or during the day.
“Employers must immediately rectify all their plans and allow voters to go and vote. Two hours is not enough, you must allow them enough time, that means half the day,” Mr Saneem said.
The 2022 general elections would be Fiji’s third elections under the new electoral system, which features the Open List PR system established through provisions of the 2013 Constitution, and Electoral Act 2014.
Today, 606,092 Fijians will cast their votes at 855 venues. Fiji’s 2022 General Election will close after the last voter in the queue at 6pm has voted. The commencement of counting is expected to start thereafter with provisional results to be announced by 8pm.
Published in collaboration with the University of the South Pacific journalism programme’s Wansolwara News.