Fiji’s opposition party, FijiFirst, is urging the Constitutional Offices Commission to promptly convene and appoint replacements for the four vacant seats within the Electoral Commission.
Leader of Opposition Inia Seruiratu said the appointments are necessary to enable the Electoral Commission to endorse the filling of two vacant seats in Parliament.
Since March of this year, the terms of four of the six-member Electoral Commission have expired, leaving only the chair, Mukesh Nand, and Ateca Ledua remaining. Nand and Ledua were appointed to the commission in February 2022, for a three-year term each, in the lead-up to the elections in December of the same year.
However, due to the lack of a quorum, which requires four members, the Electoral Commission has been unable to hold a meeting since March. Consequently, the two vacant seats in parliament that belong to FijiFirst have remained unfilled.
In the 2022 General Elections, FijiFirst secured 26 seats, which were duly occupied when the parliamentary session began earlier this year. However, within the first three months of the 2023 parliamentary calendar, five FijiFirst members resigned, starting with Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in early January, followed by Dr. Mahendra Reddy the same month. Rosy Akbar resigned in mid-February, followed by party leader Voreqe Bainimarama and Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete in early March.
While three of the vacant seats have been filled by Alipate Nagata, Penioni Ravunawa, and Virendra Lal, who replaced Sayed-Khaiyum, Dr. Reddy, and Akbar, respectively, the seats of Bainimarama and Dr. Waqainabete remain unoccupied. It is expected that Sachida Nand and Veena Bhatnagar, the next two highest-polling FijiFirst candidates, will fill these remaining seats.