Election laws change questioned
A former Speaker of Parliament, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, has questioned changes to the electoral laws, which no longer recognise service to the church as part of a candidate’s mandatory monotaga.
The former Cabinet Minister has also expressed disappointment about Parliament rejecting a petition against the changes, which he claimed was signed by church leaders and over 1,000 people.
“Why was the petition not tabled before Parliament as per usual process?” La’auli asked. “It appears Parliament does not value the views of members of the public. This is shocking.
“These are views of the public. Whether their concerns are accepted or not, their views nonetheless should have been submitted in Parliament.”
Laauli made the point in Parliament during the discussion of the Electoral Bill 2020 before it was passed. Among the changes, candidates will now be required to “sit in the Village Council” to be eligible to stand.
When it comes to the monotaga (service), candidates will have to prove that they contributed to the village Council.
But Laauli said the change appears to show that Parliament does not acknowledge candidates' contributions to the churches and religious bodies.
Deputy Speaker, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, disagreed. He told Parliament that the Bills Committee did not receive a petition.
“I want to move a motion to remove from the Hansard claims by [Laauli…] that a petition was submitted,” Nafoitoa said.
“We reviewed the amendments thoroughly and I want to reiterate the motion to remove these comments from the Hansard because they are inaccurate.”
The Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, granted the motion.
Another amendment to the new law was for general elections to be made within a period fixed by the Electoral Commissioner by public Notice, six months before the last possible date for them to be held.
“The Notice issued by the Commissioner must specify the latest day for nomination of candidates being a date not earlier than the 3rd day and not later than the 14th day at 12 noon after the closure of rolls,” the text of the law reads.
Laauli said this aspect of the bill would not sit well with the Village Councils.
“After our Parliament term, we have to return to our respective families and villages to seek their blessing for the election,” he said.
“You don’t nominate yourself for election, you have to get the blessing of the Chiefs in the village and this has been the practice in the past that until the term is concluded, we return to our villages for their blessing.”
Laauli was also against a candidate’s nomination fee of $1000. He said the increase in the level of the fee by two times would discourage members of the public to run for office.
The new nomination process from the Act is as follows:
45. Opening and closing of nominations: (1) Nominations for general elections shall be made within a period fixed by the Commissioner by public Notice, six (6) months before the last possible date for general elections.
(2) The Notice issued by the Commissioner must specify latest day for nomination of candidates being a date not earlier than the 3rd day and not later than the 14th day at 12.00 noon after the closure of rolls under section 33.
46. Nomination of candidate:
(1) A person qualified under Part 3 may, with the person’s consent, be nominated as a candidate for general election for a constituency by at least 2 registered voters of that constituency, as the case may be, by a nomination paper in the prescribed Form.
(2) Consent to the nomination of a person is to be given by that person in writing or by telegram, but need not be given at the time when the 4 nomination paper is lodged.
(3) A nomination paper and consent are to be given to the Commissioner no later than noon on nomination day and upon receipt, the Commissioner must give a receipt in writing for a nomination accepted by him or her.
(4) A candidate is to be nominated by a separate nomination paper in a manner which in the opinion of the Commissioner, is sufficient to identify the candidate and may include the Candidate’s other matai titles from the same Constituency in the nomination paper.
(5) No voter may nominate more than 1 candidate.
(6) A registered voter may inspect a nomination paper or consent at the Commissioner’s office without payment at any time when the office is open for the transaction of business.
(7) A candidate, or a person on the candidate’s behalf, must pay to the Commissioner a nomination fee of $1000 no later than noon on nomination day.
(8) If a name is shown on a nomination paper or other document in which a candidate lists a registered political Party, the Commissioner may require confirmation of that candidate’s eligibility to claim that accreditation.
(9) For the purpose of subsection (8), the Commissioner must not recognize a political Party not registered under Part 2.
47. Acceptance of nomination:
(1) The Commissioner must accept a nomination of the candidate if it fulfils all requirements set out under subsection (2).
(2) The Commissioner must reject the nomination of a candidate if: (a) the nomination paper and the consent of the candidate are not lodged with him or her by noon on nomination day; or (b) the consent of the candidate does not state that he or she is qualified to be elected a Member under Part 3 and any other enactment; or (c) the nomination paper does not state that the candidate is a registered voter of the constituency in which he or she is to represent; or (d) the nomination paper is not signed by at least 2 registered voters of the constituency in which he or she is to represent; or (e) the nomination fee is not paid as required by this Act; or (f) the nomination paper is not accompanied by a statutory declaration in the prescribed Form.
48. Publication of nominations:
(1) The Commissioner must publish publically names of all candidates nominated as soon as practicable on noon on the day appointed for the nomination of candidates.
(2) Under this section “publish publically” means to place in a place visible to the public and in a constituency, the list of nominations for that 5 constituency.