New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball returned to Parliament this week after spending an intensive three weeks working as an Observer in the Fiji general election.
Mr Ball was part of an international team which included NZ MPs Poto Williams, Louisa Wall and Michael Wood, and a number of MFAT officials. The New Zealand contingent was led by former Labour MP Ross Robertson.
Mr Ball arrived more than two weeks ahead of the rest of the team in order to work on early voting in remote villages and outlying islands. This included observing the training of the Fijian electoral officers who were in charge on voting day, and ensuring that everyone who wanted to vote, could.
The hours were long and the conditions were tough at times, but it was clear that the team had an important role to play and they were welcomed by the local people.
“It was good to see that even in isolated villages the people were keen to vote and have their voices heard.”
The November 14 election was Fiji’s second since its return to Parliamentary democracy in 2014. Mr Ball described the team’s support to the Fijian Electoral Office and the government as a whole as “vitally important”.
New Zealand takes seriously its role as part of the Pacific family and is ready to offer support and positive influence wherever possible. The interim report from the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) which Mr Ball was part of indicates that the election was free and fair.
“As a politician I have been involved in elections as both a voter and a candidate. This role made me realise how much we have an absolute trust in our electoral system, how smoothly our elections run and how, sometimes, we take that for granted.”