Ombudsman calls for free, fair election

The Office of the Ombudsman has appealed for a free and fair election following reports of activities involving campaign committees influencing voters including bribery. 

The National Human Rights Institution in Samoa has also put the microscope on developments relating to village council activities that it says “may be discriminatory or coercive of the individual in their effect”. 

In a press release, the Office has drawn attention to developments that could impact on an individual’s right to properly participate in the upcoming election. 

“These activities impact upon the right of voters to choose who they want to represent them in public office,” says the Ombudsman’s office. 

“It is incumbent upon all in authority to protect and safeguard the right of the people of Samoa to have free and fair elections. 

“The Office takes the opportunity to remind, the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, including the right to vote and to stand for elections is at the core of democratic governance based on the will of the people. 

“Genuine elections are a necessary and fundamental component of an environment that protects and promotes the human rights of all.”  

The Office made reference to Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that provides that everyone has the right to take part in the Government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. 

This right is elaborated further in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which Samoa is a party. 

“Free and fair elections facilitate the exercise of other associated citizen rights including freedom of opinion (Art 19(1) ICCPR) which allows for the authentic assertion of popular will, and also freedom of expression and information (Art 19(2) ICCPR) which enables citizens to express partisan ideas and political will. 

“Samoa’s Constitution reflects and protects these rights to ensure that citizens are able to live and participate freely and fully in the democratic society that is Samoa.”

The Office added that improper actions and conduct during the election period are prohibited under the Electoral Act 1963

Such improper actions include interfering with or unlawfully influencing voters, publishing defamatory matter at election time, bribery, treating, and undue influence. 

“The absence of adequate protection against these things can compromise the integrity of the electoral process and lead to elections not being free or fair,” says the Office. 

“The Office acknowledges the authority of the Village Fono in village affairs as provided by law. 

“In that Samoa is a democratic country, the individual’s right to vote freely in fair political elections must not be hampered in any way.”

 Accordingly, the Office appealed to the campaign committees, the village fono and candidates to respect citizen’s individual voting rights.  

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