SOLOMON IS: Citizens reportedly selling voting cards to political parties
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
HONIARA (Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation / Pacific Media Watch / Solomon Star News): Two Solomon Islands public watchdogs have warned that desperate citizens are giving away their new voter identification cards to political parties in exchange for food or money.
As a result, there will be no "free and fair" elections later this year, says the Joint Civil Society Groups and Concerned Citizens (JCSG&CC).
That organisation, and Transparency Solomon Islands said this week that voters were registering on the new biometric voter registration system launched just last week, then selling their voter identification cards to political parties or exchanging these for food, school fees payments and gifts.
The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation quoted JCSG&CC leader Barnabas Henson, saying that the new system was supposed to eliminate voting fraud such as double voting, but had instead led to "vote-buying" and "political patronage".
Transparency Solomon Islands told the Solomon Star News that it had received reports that political candidates were "promising cash in return for their ID cards", which would be kept by the "associates" of candidates until after the election.
Members of parliament have even been accused of sending supporters into communities to offer bribes in exchange for the voter ID cards.
The new system was only launched last week, with 800 voter registration centres being set up across the country. Solomon Islands citizens have until 8 April 2014 to register for the elections, which will take place later this year.
Journalist Daniel Namosuaia of the Solomon Star News reported that voters are being paid anything from SI$1000 to SI$5000 (up to NZ$800) for each card.
A private Canadian firm, Electoral Services International, has been contracted to set up the biometric voter registration system in the Solomon Islands. The firm earlier introduced the same technology to Fiji.
It is not clear at this stage how political party workers will be able to use numerous different voter cards to cast votes in the elections, as normally voter cards are physically checked at polling stations.
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