This was highlighted by the Chair of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) Patterson Oti and the new Chief Electoral Officer Jane Waetara when they updated the Prime Minister during a courtesy visit on Monday 14th September.
During the courtesy call, PM Sogavare was briefed on the by-election preparations for three (3) Constituencies namely Central Honiara, North East Guadalcanal, and South Choiseul.
“At its deliberations on 26th May and 21st August 2020, the Commission agreed that the by-elections for Central Honiara and North East Guadalcanal Constituencies be held on Wednesday 18th November, with funds permitting,” expressed Mr. Oti.
He added the Governor-General (GG) will by notice declare the election date next week.
With regards to the South Choiseul by-election, a date will be confirmed in the first quarter of 2021. Budget constraints, COVID 19 risk at the Western border are among the rationale for the delay.
It was further revealed, the Out of Constituency Voting, OCV, will be trailed during the South Choiseul Constituency by-election.
The Chair added, the finalization of the OCV procedures will be a pre-requisite for the development of the necessary regulation.
Mr. Oti said the list of electors in the 2019 National General Election will be used during the by-election.
The Prime Minister was further updated, inclusive of COVID 19 safeguard measures, the budget for the Central Honiara and North East Guadalcanal Constituencies by-election stands at 4.35 Million dollars.
Of the sum, 1.5 million dollars is being requested from the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, pending formal approval.
The SIEC Chair said key stakeholders such as the National COVID-19 Oversight Committee, Ministry of Health COVID 19 Team, Registrar of Political Parties Commission, RSIPF, Ministry of Finance, and the Government House have been consulted.
A three (3) day Training for Electoral Officials has started on Monday 14th September.
Key Electoral Reform Priorities for implementation in preparation for the 2023 National General Election include Continuous Voter Registration and combining the National and Provincial Elections.
Mr. Oti underscores, important pre-requisites to achieve the above two priorities will involve the re-configuration of the Solomon Islands Electoral IT Biometric Voter Registration System.
There is also the urgent need to support the Vendor (Election Services International) to do the modifications of the BRV system, plus costs and related budget implications.
The Chair added, with the new responsibilities for the Solomon Islands Electoral Office, SIEO, as dictated by the Electoral Act 2018, it becomes inevitable the need to not only increase the capacity of SIEO but also have trained and skilled personnel, to be able to deliver on the SIEC mandate and also effectively inform and educate the public.
Prime Minister Sogavare has acknowledged the tremendous amount of hard work put into the by-election preparation and the 2023 national general elections.
“These are not the best of times as the government attention is shifted towards COVID 19 but the planning and preparatory work for the three Constituency by-elections so far is inspiring,” said Prime Minister Sogavare.
Mr. Sogavare also congratulated the Solomon Islands Electoral Office’s new Chief Electoral Officer, Jane Waetara, the first local female to hold the post since it was constitutionalized in mid-2018.