Members of the business community had the opportunity to be updated on election reforms in the Solomon Islands on Friday 3rd March 2023.
This was during a Business After 5 (BA5) event hosted by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) where the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission’s Electoral Reform Taskforce presented on the synchronization of all elections for all levels of governance, voter Registration and out of Constituency Voting.
“We acknowledge the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission’s Reform Taskforce for an engaging presentation to our members. The presentation highlighted electoral reforms that are important for business community and employers to be aware of as the country heads into National General Election in 2024,” a SICCI media statement said.
It was also an opportunity for the Electoral Commission’s Reform Taskforce to get views from SICCI, as the peak body representing private sector in the country, and its members of the business community.
With the synchronization of all elections for all level of governance, the Electoral Reform Taskforce proposes to align the Provincial and Honiara City Council Elections with the National Elections.
“Provincial, Honiara City and National elections are a costly exercise that involves an overlapping of many activities, such as voter registration. Given the potential changes to the National election system with the introduction of the Political Parties Integrity Bill 2013, the Premiers support a move to align Provincial and Honiara City elections with National elections to save money and prevent duplication of services,” the presentation highlighted.
“Goal 3 of the ERSF talks about efficient and effective conduct of elections for both provincial assemblies and national parliament in 2023 with the life of the 9 provincial assemblies aligned to be dissolved together with the national parliament,” it added.
In 2019, the Electoral Commission decided to trial the possibility of holding simultaneous elections at a small scale in East Makira Constituency.
Another trial was conducted in West Kwaio Constituency last year, 2022. Both trials were conducted without any major problems.
To achieve this there needs to be a onetime extension or shortening of existing tenures of either National Parliament or provincial/council level or delay the election dates for the Provincial Assemblies where permitted by law. Peg the simultaneous election cycle to the Parliament since parliament elections is for the whole country.
Also amending the Constitutional provision on parliamentary tenure requires 2/3 majority while amending the Provincial Government Act and the City Council Act will just require a simple majority.
Businesses were told that 17 April 2024 will be the synchronize election day where the provincial assemblies and the Honiara City Council must also have their elections.
To ensure that elections at all levels are held on 17th April 2024 there needs to be Amendments to the Provincial Government Act 1997 to allow for one off early dissolution or extending of the life of the Assemblies, Minister of Provincial Government to delay election dates where applicable and amend the Honiara City Act 1999 to extend the life of the Council to cater for the synchronize election date.
On Voter Registration, the Electoral Reform Taskforce updated that currently there is a set time for registration for those who want to change constituency, those who turn 18 years and wanted to vote.
“Holding one day elections is feasible but mindful of the challenge of keeping and maintaining the election date synchronized. It requires amendments to relevant election laws and use of Ministerial Power to delay election dates are required, the Electoral Commission will conduct continuous voter registration.
“The Electoral Commission has a strong intention to conduct out of constituency voting. There are however a few challenges to be carefully examined before a firm decision is made,” the Taskforce’s presentation concluded.
The Electoral Reform Taskforce is nearing conclusion to its national consultations and will soon complete provincial consultations with remaining provinces, Western and Choiseul Provinces in the not-too-distant future.
The Taskforce acknowledge SICCI for providing the opportunity to engage with its members during the Business After 5 event. It is important for businesses to be aware of changes affecting the country national election system. Election polling is likely to impact on business confidence, stability, workers and domestic supply chains as a major national event.