The Taskforce on Electoral Reform continued their provincial consultations with the Choiseul Provincial Assembly Members and the wider community stakeholders in Taro on the current proposed electoral reform to hold elections at all levels of government (Parliament, Honiara City Council and the Provincial Assembly) on the same day, on Monday and Tuesday last week. Upon arrival, the Taskforce paid a courtesy visit to the Choiseul Province Premier Hon. Togua Tabe.
The two days consultation workshop was held in Taro, Choiseul Province on the 13th and 14th of March 2023.
On the first day of consultation, the Premier for Choiseul Province, Hon. Togua Tabe in his opening remarks, welcomed the Taskforce to Choiseul Province stating that proper consultation had been the cry of the people of Choiseul Province. He further stated that his provincial government is looking forward to see a perfect union between the Provincial Governments and the National Government, build on fundamental principles of liberty and justice for all. And this reform is building towards this perfect union and relationship.
The Acting Chairperson of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission, Mrs. Taeasi Sanga in her opening address acknowledged the Premier Hon. Togua Tabe and the members of the Choiseul Provincial Assembly for their warm welcome and encouraged the Assembly to make comments, raise issues, and come up with possible solutions to the proposed electoral reforms.
The discussions with the Choiseul Provincial Assembly focused on the holding of simultaneous elections, out of constituency voting and continuous voter registration. The other important areas discussed included the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act 2018 and the election-related provisions of the Provincial Government Act 1997 as well as proposed changes to the Provincial Government (Election) Regulations.
Generally, Provincial Assembly agreed to the proposed idea of holding simultaneous election in 2024. However, they strongly recommended that their term should not be shorten for the 2024 election but let it run until 2026 and then extended to allow Choiseul Assembly to join the synchronization in 2028. They also support the idea of out of constituency voting and continuous voter registration. Their concern is with the timing of the reform, whether it be ready in time for implementation. Also, they raise concerns over the security capability of the Police on such massive scale election. They urge the Commission and Taskforce to work closely with the key election stakeholders in order for everyone to be ready for the synchronize elections in 2024.
For day two, the Taskforce consulted the Choiseul Province wider community stakeholders which include representatives from the churches, community leaders, women groups, youth organisation, people with disability and other stakeholder groups.
Acting Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mrs Taeasi Sanga highlighted that the Taskforce acknowledged the presence of the stakeholders and are looking forward to a fruitful and worthwhile discussion. She further highlighted that the Electoral Reform is a high priority of the Electoral Commission and government. The discussions with the stakeholders included discussions about simultaneous election, out of constituency voting, continuous voter registration and changes to provincial assembly election laws as well as some proposed changes to the Electoral Act 2018.
Generally, the stakeholders support the proposed synchronization of all elections to go to poll on the same day. They also support the idea of out of constituency voting and the continuous voter registration. However, there were some issues raised such as combine election might cause confusion among our illiterate voters, whether we have the security capacity to run a massive scale election, issues on cross border voting due to the broad definition of ordinarily resident and the timely passage of the amendments to the election laws to facilitate the combine election among other things. In terms of Choiseul province being part of the synchronization in 2024, the stakeholders generally support the view that their Provincial Assembly continue on and complete their current term and then be extended to be part of the combine election in 2028.
In concluding the two days of consultation, the Chairperson of the Taskforce Ms Florence Joel acknowledged the MPAs and the stakeholders for sharing their frank views and observations, and for their active participation during the two days of consultation. She further highlighted that once all consultations are done the Taskforce will consider the recommendations from the provincial assemblies and stakeholders and will report back to the Commission and Cabinet.
The Electoral Commission and the Taskforce would like to acknowledge the continuous support of the Solomon Islands Government in collaboration with its donor partners the Australian Government and UNDP through SECSIP project.