P.M. defends compulsory voting
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has defended mandatory voting, claiming that a majority of countries legally oblige their citizens to do so.
“In some countries registration and voting is mandatory and [people] will be fined if they don’t oblige,” he said in remarks made on Friday after the Human Rights Protection Party caucus.
“When it comes to the election (the Government) cannot allow you to be irresponsible, they need to think thoroughly as to the right candidate to vote for, instead of complaining after the election when in fact you did not cast your ballot.”
The Prime Minister denied that democratic Government should not “force” people to register and vote if they don’t want to.
“It is your duty to your country,” he said.
The Prime Minister spoke after the deadline for voter registration closed on Thursday leaving several voters unregistered and facing a fine of up to $2000 tala.
The Prime Minister said that the Office of the Electoral Commissioner has been running electoral awareness programmes for several years about mandatory voting.
Voting is compulsory in Australia but registration is not. Registered voters who fail to vote in that country are fined between the equivalent of $40-$100 tala depending on the level of Government involved.
The C.I.A. World Factbook said that while 20 countries have compulsory legislation on the books, only a minority enforce them. According to a 2018 study by the Varieties of Democracy thinktank in Sweden only three countries enforce voting laws with what are described as “costly” sanctions.
Electoral Commissioner Faimalo Mathew Lemisio said in earlier interviews that under the Electoral Act 2019 Section 63, it states that it is the duty of every voter qualifying under this Act registered as a voter to vote at each election. The Act also makes it compulsory for citizens to register.
The Electoral Commissioner stressed that the fine for not registering is $2,000. Voters that will not vote the penalty notices will be referred to the Court if they fail to pay $100 tala.
On the final day of registration for the next general election on Thursday, a surging crowd of voters eager to avoid a $2000 fine formed at the doors of the Congregational Christian Church [C.C.C.S.] of Samoa Hall in Mulinu’u.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said the Government would not extend the deadline for voter registration, despite hundreds being left locked outside the Office of the Electoral Commission on Thursday.
The Prime Minister said the Government would show no leniency.
“If they postpone the registration, it may hinder the election process, given the Electoral Commissioner’s schedule for election office [events] leading up to the election,” Tuilaepa said.
“This is the same issue with the closing hours for the supermarket at the time the government was enforcing the state of emergency restrictions, people always wait until the last minute,” Tuilaepa said.
The Prime Minister drew an analogy between a supermarket near his house which has a rush of clientele 15 minutes before closing time.
“[People] always wait until the last minute,” he said. He said this was one area he claims voters were used by candidates to be brought in to register.
“If we postpone now, this will become a trend for every time there is an election people will want to adjourn the registration time, but the problem is the Office of the Electoral Commission has their schedule panned out leading up to the election.”