The Taskforce on Electoral Reform has completed its final provincial consultations in Gizo, Western Province with the Western Provincial Assembly Members (MPAs) and the wider community stakeholders. Upon arrival in Gizo, the Taskforce team paid a courtesy visit to Premier Hon. Billy Veo, briefing the Premier on the background and purpose of the Taskforce business.
The two days consultation workshop was held in Gizo, Western Province on the 16th and 17th of March 2023.
The Taskforce commence their consultation workshop with the Western Province stakeholders followed by the Provincial Assembly consultation. In day one of the consultation, the Gizo Town Clerk Mr. Charles Kelly warmly welcomed and thanked the Taskforce Team to come to the Province to consult and hear the views of the local people on these very important electoral reforms. In response, Commissioner Taeasi Sanga acknowledged the warm welcome and encourage the participants to openly share their frank views on the reforms proposed by the Taskforce.
The discussion with the stakeholders focused on the holding of simultaneous elections, out of constituency voting and continuous voter registration. Other important areas discussed included the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act 2018 and the proposed amendments to the election-related provisions of the Provincial Government Act 1997 and the Provincial Government (Election) Regulations.
Generally, the stakeholders supported the idea of combining all elections to go to poll on the same day. One participant stated that combine elections will reduce election conflicts between families. Another participant highlighted that this is a way forward, however, concern whether this reform will be ready before the national general election in 2024. The stakeholders support the introduction of the out of constituency voting and continuous voter registration. It was highlighted that a central data system is required to facilitate proper registration in order to verify the accuracy of information provided by the electors. In terms of synchronization, the stakeholders generally agreed that Western Province join the other provinces and Honiara City Council in the 2024 election.
The Taskforce consulted the Western Provincial Assembly (MPAs) on its Day 2 of the consultation. The Honourable Premier for Western Province Hon. Billy Veo in his opening remarks welcomed and thanked the Taskforce for coming to consult the Province on the electoral reforms. He highlighted that while we seek ways to cut the cost of elections and make the election process more efficient, we must at all times ensure that we do not compromise the right of our citizens to access and participate in the election process. Voter participation and convenience must be paramount to these proposed changes. In response, the acting Chairperson of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission, Mrs. Taeasi Sanga thanked the Premier Hon. Billy Veo and the members of the Western Provincial Assembly for their warm welcome and encouraged the Assembly members to make comments, raise issues and come up with possible solutions to the proposed electoral reforms.
The discussions with the Western 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, the MPAs support the idea of combine elections, out of constituency voting and continuous voter registration. Hon. Rence Sore stated that while in support of the combine election, it will be good if we slowly phasing it out starting with the provinces so that we have better planning, better control and come up with better operations before combining with the Parliamentary election.
In terms of synchronization the Western Provincial Assembly convey to the Taskforce that their position is to join the rest of the Country in the combine elections in 2028. The current Assembly wants complete its 4 year term in 2026 and then be extended for the remaining months to allow them fall in sync for the 2028 election.
In closing the two days of consultation, the Chairperson of the Taskforce Ms Florence Joel thanked the stakeholders and the MPAs for their active participation and for sharing their frank views on the proposed electoral reforms. She highlighted that the issues and observation raised in the two days will substantively assist the Taskforce to prepare its report to the Commission and Cabinet.
The Commission and the Taskforce thanked the Hon. Premier for Western Province, the Western Provincial Assembly members, community leaders, church leaders, women, youth, people with disability and other stakeholder groups within the Province for their time in being part of this important consultations and for sharing their views on the electoral reform proposals.
The Western Province consultations concludes the Taskforce’s provincial visits. The Taskforce will report to the Electoral Commission and Cabinet considering the views gathered from the provincial consultations and Honiara City Council. Amendments to relevant laws to facilitate the synchronization of elections in 2024 are expected to be completed this year.
The Electoral Commission and the Taskforce acknowledge the continuous support of the Solomon Islands Government in collaboration with its donor partners, the Australian Government and UNDP through SECSIP project.