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An election candidate in Samoa has lodged a complaint with the police over a police officer’s direct attempt to influence a voter during Wednesdays’ pre-polling at one of the Sagaga 4 polling booths.
Opting to withhold names for possible legal action after the election, the carer involved was accompanying an elderly voter when asked by a police officer at the booth who they were voting for.
When given the name, the officer then told the carer to vote for the government as “it was useless” – ma’imau le kaimi – voting for the candidate named.
The carer later informed the election candidate who then lodged a complaint with the Afega police station and resulted in the officers’ removal from the booth.
There are further reports of similar incidences of government officials influencing voters (especially voters using government services) since pre-polling started on Monday this week.
With the evidence from Wednesday’s incidence, the candidate is considering legal action after the elections.
Late last month, a Police Inspector instructed a police officer to remove a sticker that promoted another political party from his private vehicle. The Inspector told the officer that he could be “locked up for doing that.”
When asked for comment, the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailili Egon Keil told Talamua that the Inspector had no right to do what he did especially it was the officers own car and was free to display what he wanted on it.
“That is not true, you cannot charge anyone over that and the Inspector has no right to say that,” said Fuiavailili.
What people do with their off duty time has got nothing to do with police or government because everyone is free to vote for whoever they want to vote for, he said.
“If I had a car and I support a party I would stick their sticker on my car but it has nothing to do with police, and as long as it is not a police car because we don’t take sides,” said the Police Commissioner.
“On their personal cars they can do whatever they want to promote whoever they want because that’s their choice, and there is no controlling of peoples freedom to vote,” said Fuiavailili.
Electoral Commissioner, Faimalōmatumua Mathew Lemisio, has appealed again to the election candidates and committee members to leave the voters alone so they can vote freely.
Faimalōmatumua was responding to media queries after the results for the third day of pre-polling were posted about candidates seen among the voters at polling booths and some complaints about committee members lingering with the voters at the polling booths.
He said that they received complaints and police were sent in some cases but when pressed to provide proof, it could not be provided.
There was a complaint about candidates seen around election booths and voters, and Faimalōmatumua issued a reminder to on the media.
“Hopefully they watched last night, because we don’t want to tell them what to do but to remind them. All we ask is to give the voters a chance to vote freely,” he said.
“So far the operation for pre-polling has been going well and we’ve had several elderly women commending us for the work and assistance given to them when they came to cast their votes,” said Faimalōmatumua.
The only challenge the Office is facing is the logistics.
The office had four weeks to re-organise the pre-polling after the incident where pre-polling forms were allegedly duplicated “and we’re only working towards satisfying what the Election Act says,” said Faimalōmatumua.
As of Wednesday, people were still turning up at the office asking to utilise the pre-polling service.
But that is gone as they had a chance to register for it and it was optional. They have to cast their votes in the general elections on Friday 09 April.
Meanwhile, election teams are preparing for the big day on Friday and teams leave for Savaii and outer polling stations today.
More than 2000 volunteers from the public service and private companies have been engaged in the election process and will be dispersed to the electoral constituencies today.
Over 8,000 voters were registered for pre-polling while overall, 128,800 voters are registered for the 2021 elections. 432 polling booths have been set up around the country to ensure everyone casts their vote this Friday, 09 April.
SOURCE: TALAMUA ONLINE NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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