Ruling on Electoral Act challenge on Notice

September 27, 2022 4:10 pm

[File Photo]

The High Court‘s decision is on notice following the hearing of an application filed by the Fiji Labour Party and Unity Fiji party.

The political parties have challenged the constitutionality of Section 116(4C) and (4D) of the Electoral Act.

Section 116(4C) /of the Electoral Act states that if a political party,a candidate for election to Parliament or any other person representing, or acting under the direction of, the political party or candidate, makes a financial commitment, whether orally or in writing, the political party, candidate or other person must immediately provide a written explanation settling out the following information.

Article continues after advertisement

This is on how the revenue for the financial commitment will be raised, how expenditure for the financial commitment is to be made, how expenditure if to be allocated to different sectors, and if expenditure exceeds revenue, how the deficit is to be financed.

Sevuloni Valenitabua, the counsel representing the two political parties in his argument in court today stated that the requirements set out under the provisions are onerous and burdensome on political parties which are not in Government.

He said political parties and candidates should be given the freedom to campaign and to state their policies openly.

Valenitabua said the manner in which the policies was to be funded could be discussed once a political party or candidate is elected in Parliament because they would then have the freedom of allocating funds for certain projects and policies.

He adds that it would be impossible for parties and candidates to openly state how they would fund their policies because they do not have access to funding or taxes provided by the people to fund the policies.

In response, counsel for the Speaker of Parliament, the Government and the Attorney-General, Gul Fatima submitted that the application was misconceived as the Fiji Labour Party and Unity Fiji had disguised what ought to have been an application for constitutional redress as an originating motion. She further submitted that the law doesn’t favor or support ruling political parties as the information required to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act was publicly accessible.

She said any candidate for elections and anyone who makes a financial commitment must explain to the electorate how policies or promises will cost.

She further submitted that in order to have a free, fair, and credible election, it is critical for the electorate to be given all information necessary to enable it to make an informed decision. Political parties too must protect the integrity of their political campaigns and promises.

She added that this would not be possible if parties are permitted to make pie-in-the-sky promises without backing them up with key facts and figures.

The High Court will deliver its decision on Notice.