MOU for free public transportation on election day
The Fijian Elections Office (FEO) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Rural & Maritime Development, Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport, and the Land Transport Authority to provide free transportation services for voters on polling day. Picture: SUPPLIED/FEO
By IOANE ASIOLI
Registered voters in Fiji can expect free transport services to polling venues on election day, December 14, after a memorandum of understanding was recently signed between the Fijian Elections Office (FEO), Ministry of Rural & Maritime Development, Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport, and the Land Transport Authority.
While the FEO will be releasing a public transport booklet detailing service providers operating on polling day, it is understood alternative arrangements will be considered for areas without bus services.
Electoral Commission chairperson Mukesh Nand said bus operators were engaged by the commission during the 2014 and 2018 General Election to provide voluntary transportation service on election day to the public.
He said that arrangement did not involve any fixed schedules or payment and was largely based on the discretion of the operators.
“There are many locations such as inner city and town roads and the distant rural locations where bus services are not available,” Mr Nand said.
“Despite the availability of services in some areas, the turnout was lower than expected. It is with this experience that the Electoral Commission formed its view in the early part of the election cycle that the Fijian Elections Office will need to directly plan, prepare, execute and monitor the provision of transportation services at the General Election.”
Mr Nand said FEO was placed at the most central position when it came to determining the routes and requirements for each polling location.
He said the FEO would have to organise transportation services that were best suited to the needs of each polling location.
“This has to also be equated against the availability of the transportation mechanism and coupled with that, the organisation of a suitable mechanism to monitor that the services will be available,” Mr Nand said.
“There is a need for the FEO to allocate transport that best works in the locality. The other important expectation is that the transportation services will start as early as 7am and continue in higher frequency in the morning half of the day.”
Mr Nand noted that FEO could work with established government machinery on the ground to achieve this, and that multi-stakeholder approach was vital to ensuring free and fair elections come polling day.
Nine registered political parties are expected to contest the general election. As of October 28, 692,918 voters have so far registered with the FEO. Fiji’s 2022 General Election will be held on December 14.
*Ioane Asioli is a final-year journalism student at The University of the South Pacific. He is part of the Wansolwara News team covering the 2022 General Election in Fiji. Follow us on Facebook@Wansolwara and Twitter@USPWansolwara for election updates.