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Campaign signboards nailed on a coconut tree, Niue election candidates going door to door handing out flyers and randomly picking the results out of a hat.
These are just part of Niue’s General election as locals get ready to cast their votes this Saturday, 30 May.
Even before Parliament had dissolved last month, campaigning by some candidates had already begun.
With just three days to go till polling day, candidates have ramped up their individual campaigning aiming to gain as many votes as they can, going from door to door handing out flyers that outline their political priorities and attending meetings in villages and town halls.
A few weeks before the general election it is often common to see candidates especially with the common roll attending church services in the villages.
In the past few days, a series of Q and A sessions have been held by various organisations with the aim of providing opportunities for the public to directly engage with the candidates about issues concerning the public.
Recent discussions at these sessions have highlighted issues regarding the credibility of government particularly with the recent audit report tabled in Parliament for the financial year 2014 to 2015. However, five years in arrears of audit reports are still pending.
Concerns have also been raised by the public on the conditions of the island’s infrastructure and the need to have roads repaired, upgrade health facilities, and education reforms.
Business opportunities and investments have also been of major interest in these forum discussions.
Election candidates are also making the most of free airtime on radio and television to articulate their political priorities. In every general election, the Broadcasting Corporation of Niue offers free airtime both on radio and TV for every candidate however following the fire incident which destroyed the studios, only radio airtime has been offered to candidates at the makeshift studios at BCN.
Campaigns of various candidates have also been seen published in the community newspaper, Niue Star.
The law that guides the running of the general elections is the Niue Assembly Act 1966 but is not specific on the rules around campaigning. The act only provides for the conduct of elections, disputed elections, corrupt practices, electors and electoral rolls, qualification of members, and the role of electoral officers.
Niue uses the first past the post electoral system. There are no political parties in Niue, each candidate is independent and those who do get elected to Parliament will have to form a coalition.
If two candidates are tied, then the Chief Electoral Officer invites the two to the electoral office to pick a name out of a hat – a practice stipulated in the 1966 Niue Act.
While seen as a simple method for a small electorate, most people on the island are calling for a change as they believe picking out of a hat is archaic and trivialises the candidates who are subjected to this method.
In the last General Election in 2017, this method was used with the Mutalau seat.
Those who are calling for a change to this traditional practice have suggested going back to the polls instead to determine a fair result.
A total of 51 candidates are contesting the election, 26 in the common roll while 26 candidates for the village seats.
Polling stations in each of the 14 villages will open from 6 am on Saturday, 30 May for people to cast their votes and will close at 6 pm for the vote tallying to begin.
Meanwhile, the youngest candidate of the Common Roll Alana Fiafia Rex aims to champion increased support for community development if elected to Parliament.
The 37-year-old is a passionate environment conservationist who has had extensive work experience with community development in Niue through voluntary and civil society work.
She founded the local non-Governmental organisation Oma Tafua meaning “to treasure whales” which is dedicated to the conservation and protection of marine mammals in Niue and the wider Pacific.
Alana Fiafia Rex says her priority is standing for a prosperous and resilient government.
Her top motivations, she says are power to thriving communities and to sustainable finances.
Kenneth Green who is also advocating for more youth representation aims to propose two seats for people under the age of 40 in the Common Roll.
Green who is one of the youngest Common roll candidates told BCN News that he aims to engage more youths in various areas and mobilise more empowering programs and incentives for the young people on the island.
He said it is about time that youths have a seat at the table on national decision making matters.
SOURCE: TV NIUE/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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