Election candidates amp up campaigning; Calls to end random-hat drawing

Campaign signboards nailed to a coconut tree, 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, May 30th.

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 amped 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, attending meetings in villages and town halls and utilizing social media platforms.  

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 organizations 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, 5 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.

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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 trivializes 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 9 am this Saturday, May 30th for people to cast their votes and will close at 6 pm for the vote tallying to begin.

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