Election results app goes dark in Fiji, comes back with tally reversed

Election results app goes dark in Fiji, comes back with tally reversed

Fiji’s opposition is protesting alleged irregularities in voting data after the country’s election results app went dark while they were ahead in the count.

Provisional results four hours after polls closed on Wednesday had the People’s Alliance vote hovering in the mid to low 40s and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party in the mid-20s.

Doubting the tally: The People Alliance Party leader Rabuka Sitiveni Ligamamada after he cast his vote on Wednesday in Suva.Credit:Getty Images

But the app was taken offline for a number of hours and the results flipped when it came back online.

The final provisional count from more than half of polling stations puts FijiFirst on 46 per cent and People’s Alliance on 33 per cent.

People’s Alliance leader Sitiveni Rabuka says the new data didn’t match the raw data the party has from polling stations.

Rabuka said opposition observers sent the results from pink slips posted at all polling stations which show the provisional tally and the raw data didn’t match the current count.

“Everybody was probably taken by surprise last night at the turn of events,” he told the press on Thursday morning.

“We were ahead in the count. When the systems came back on, there was a big change, not in our favour.”

Rabuka said he would petition the president and make a complaint with the Fijian Elections Office.

He said he did not have faith in the Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem to remain impartial.

“Not after what happened last night,” he said, when asked if he had confidence in Saneem.

Prime Minister and FijiFirst Party leader Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama on his way to cast his vote on December 14 in Suva.Credit:Getty Images

Saneem blamed the glitch on voter data being uploaded to the app rather than incorrect polling data within the system.

He said an interruption during the transfer of data to the app mismatched data to the wrong candidates.

“Hence the vote numbers changed for certain candidates who suddenly got a lot of votes in the app,” he said.

He said the data had to be re-uploaded, which fixed the “anomaly”.

The Multinational Observer Group said it was continuing to monitor the electoral process.

Rabuka said there was enough evidence to sustain his claim in court.

He maintained he would accept the loss if it was verified by independent and opposition scrutineers after any appeals.

“We have discovered we still have the majority working on the results that were published on the pink copies of provisional results,” he said.

He called for the public to remain calm in a nation marred by coups.

“There is no reason for us to agitate. Let us wait until all the courses for redress have been explored,” he said.

“Even after that, we still want them to remain calm.”

There is still a path to power for Rabuka on the final provisional results as People’s Alliance flagged a coalition with the National Federation Party which is polling at almost 10 per cent.

Six other parties are currently below the five per cent threshold to be awarded a seat in the expanded 55-member parliament.

But the Social Democratic Liberal Party, known as SODELPA, is within striking distance of the threshold on 4.6 per cent.

Rabuka said he had extended an invitation to include SODELPA – the party he led before he was ousted as leader – in a coalition.

He also flagged stepping down instead of taking up the mantle of opposition leader should he lose.

Bainimarama, the prime minister, instigated the 2006 coup and was installed as prime minister the year after before leading FijiFirst to majority government at the 2014 and 2018 democratic elections. But his majority from the 2018 election sat at just 50.02 per cent after falling from almost 60 per cent in 2014.

Rabuka is a former prime minister who instigated a coup in 1987 before bringing back democratic elections in 1992 and leading the country through to 1999.

Rabuka expressed doubt Bainimarama would accept defeat but said there was little prospect of a coup after Fiji’s military commander told his soldiers to respect the outcome of the election and said anything less would be an affront to democracy.

Bainimarama said he would “of course” respect the outcome of the democratic election.

The final tally will be reported by Sunday.


This article was made possible through the Melbourne Press Club’s Michael Gordon Journalism Fellowship Program.

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