Fiji Pol: Amendments to parties’ laws remove citizens’ rights

Two Fijian political parties who this week jointly filed two cases in the high court of Fiji one of which relates to amendments made to the political parties act last year, that further empowered the Electoral Commission, insist the changes are “unconstitutional and invalid.”

Changes made to section 30 and the added provision 30(A) of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act 2013 replaced the high court with the Electoral Commission as the authoritative body to hear appeals against any decision by Registrar of Parties, as well as mediate or arbitrate disputes between political parties.

Leaders of Fiji Labour Party Mahendra Chaudhry and Unity Fiji Savenaca Narube said the new provisions remove citizens’ rights to access the court, calling for its restoration.

In their respective submissions to the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Law, and Human Rights around February-March 2021, the two parties were against the removal of the high court in the appeals process. The changes were enacted in early June of the same year.

The case is scheduled to be called in a high court in Suva on 2 March 2022.

The other case filed by the parties seeks to request the court to wield its constitutional powers to direct the Constitutional Offices Commission to appoint a tribunal to investigate allegations of misbehaviour against the Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem.

The two parties are expected to file a third case relating to changes that were made to the Electoral Act via the Financial Management Act requiring political parties or candidates who make an election promise immediately explain in writing how they will fund it, and should the expenditure result in a deficit, outline how it will be met.

Chaudhry called the provisions “impractical and stupid.”

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