VOTERS of East Makira Constituency will go back to the polls on December 11 to elect their new MP.
The upcoming by-election is necessary to replace their former MP Charles Maefai, who died in July this year.
Acting Governor General and Speaker of National Parliament Patteson Oti declared the election date on Tuesday.
December 11 is the same day Makira-Ulawa will conduct their provincial assembly election.
Tuesday’s proclamation has triggered a chain of activities that are mandatory under the Electoral Act 2018.
Commissioner and Chief Electoral Officer, Mose Saitala, said that as required by Section 59 of the Electoral Act, the nomination period for candidates wishing to contest the by-election will commence from Wednesday,16th October and close on Wednesday, 30th October 2019.
Namuga Community High School in East Makira has been declared the nomination center where candidates will be required to file their nomination in person.
Returning Officer for the East Makira by-election will be publishing the Notice of the by-election in the constituency from Wednesday, 16th October.
Pursuant to Section 62 of the Electoral Act, the official campaign period for this particular by-election will commence from tomorrow, 16thOctober and will end Monday midnight, 9th December, 24 hours before polling day.
Saitala has also confirmed that with Solomon Islands Electoral Commission assuming responsibility for provincial election as required by Section 12 of the Electoral Act, the conduct of the East Makira by-election and the provincial election for Makira-Ulawa will be combined to be held on the same day.
“This is the first time we will be doing this as it is considered economical to combine the conduct of the two elections on the same day,” Saitala said.
He has also confirmed that the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission will be providing overall supervision of the two elections in Makira-Ulawa province.
However, because this will be the first time the Electoral Commission will be responsible for provincial elections; the Commission will work together with the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening to deliver on the provincial election.
Saitala also confirmed that the Electoral Commission will be administering the East Makira by-election as well as provincial elections for the wards in the East Makira constituency, while the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening, under the general supervision of the Commission, will be administering the rest of the provincial elections in wards other than those in the East Makira constituency.
East Makira constituency is one of the most remote constituencies in the country, and with this change of having to cast two ballot papers in an election and place those ballot papers (one national election and one provincial election) in the right ballot box is a challenge the Commission has realized.
In view of this, the Electoral Office will be deploying an awareness team to East Makira by this coming weekend to conduct Face-to-Face awareness talks in some 25 villages.
“It is important to educate the voters in East Makira about the election process, especially now that voters are required to cast, in one election event on Wednesday, 11 December, one ballot paper for his/her preferred candidate to represent his/her interest in the national Parliament, and to cast another vote for his/her preferred candidate to represent his/her interest in the provincial Assembly,” Saitala said.
Saitala confirmed that there is a strong preference by Leaders to combine the conduct of both the provincial election and national election on the day designated to be the General Election polling day in the future.
The Electoral Commission agrees with the idea of combining the conduct of both elections in one day because of the benefits it can potentially bring.
“In theory, the cost of conducting election should be reduced because we will reduce the amount of printing; there will be one transportation schedule, one venue, same election officials and one security arrangement if we do combine these two elections. Combining the conduct of the by-election in East Makira to coincide with the provincial election will test this theory,” Saitala said
He reassured voters in Makira-Ulawa province that except for voters in East Makira, the voting process in all wards other than those in East Makira will be the same as before.
“A voter will be given a ballot paper to cast his/her vote for his/her preferred candidate to represent his/her interest in the provincial Assembly.
“The difference will only be in East Makira where voters will be given two ballot papers, one for the by-election and one for the provincial election,” Saitala said.