Asinate Colovanua fans herself with the FEO Voter Instruction Booklet as she wait for her daughter to vote at the USP Statham Campus, Suva Point polling venue. Picture: YASMINE WRIGHT GITTINS
By YASMINE WRIGHT GITTINS, LEILA PARINA and GERALDINE PANAPASA
Water bottles, umbrellas and fans were common accessories for voters across Fiji today. Lines at polling stations nationwide grew quickly in the early morning, as Fijians tried to beat the midday heat.
Lines at The University of the South Pacific’s Statham Campus polling venue at Suva Point extended across the hot carpark.
In spite of the early morning rush by voters to cast their ballots, by midday Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem noted that voter turnout “is not looking very promising” as only 164,954 voters at 1145 polling stations (27.24 per cent of the total registered voters) had cast their ballots by 11am.
He urged every registered Fijian voter to come out and vote, and to make use of the free public transportation to get to polling venues in their localities.
“The weather is good, the polling venue is ready, the line is gone, all you have to do now is show up and vote,” Mr Saneem said during the midday Polling Day update at the National Results Centre in Suva.
“If you have voted, check in on your family members who haven’t voted. Take them out and make them vote. Spend the next 5-6 hours to get family members to go out and vote.
“If you need transport on election day, send an SMS of your VoterCard number to 1500. That SMS reply will tell you the number and details of the person monitoring public transport in that area.
“This free public transport service will continue until 4pm so make use of it now, go and vote.”
With temperatures expected to reach 30 degrees Celsius by 1pm, with some voters raised concerns about the lack of shelter in open spaces for queues.
Voter and mother, Asinate Colovanua, said even though Fijians were used to the heat, there could have been provisions for water and shelter, especially for the older citizens waiting in line.
Elderly voters were eventually offered shelter in airconditioned cars as they waited their turn to vote at the polling station.
Meanwhile, Mr Saneem reminded Fijian Elections Office staff to refrain from introducing entry requirements for polling agents.
“There were a few issues from the field in relation to candidate agents. I’d like to clarify to FEO staff, you have to let polling agents in. There is no requirement to have their agent appointment forms stamped, do not introduce this as a requirement,” he said.
The 2022 General Election is the third post-2006 coup election and is set to be significant for cementing democracy. The number of registered voters exceeds both the 2018 and 2014 elections.
As many as 606,092 Fijians are expected to cast their votes at 855 venues today.
Fiji’s 2022 General Election will close after the last voter in the queue at 6pm has voted. The commencement of counting is expected to start thereafter with provisional results to be announced by 8pm.