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Monday 14 March 2016 | Published in Regional


YAREN – Two former Nauru presidents have appealed to the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Pacific Islands Forum to begin early monitoring of the island’s elections.

Nauru is required to hold elections by the middle of the year.

Marcus Stephen and Sprent Dabwido have written to the two organisations on behalf of the opposition.

They say they fear the government is abusing its office for the deliberate manipulation of the election, which is expected to be held in the middle of the year.

In letters to the two organisations, assistance was sought in addressing what was called “the breakdown of democracy, good governance, freedom of speech, rule of law and separation of powers”.

The government has invited both organisations to act as observers.

But the letters ask that observers be sent to Nauru in advance of the poll.

They claim the government has introduced barriers for potential candidates which would unfairly alter the outcome.

In February, the government, which dominates parliament having suspended most of the opposition, ruled that public servants wanting to stand had to resign three months before the poll.

The government also hiked candidacy fees 20-fold and increased charges for voters wanting to move electorates.

Former justice minister Mathew Batsiua says the government has amended electoral laws to further undermine democracy on the island.

Batsiua, who is one of five opposition members suspended from parliament for nearly
two years, said the changes make it harder for many people to stand.

Batsiua said that the government had hiked candidacy fees 20-fold – from $US74 to $US1500 – and dramatically increased charges for voters wanting to move electorates.

“Those increases in fees are further attacks on the rights of people to stand as candidates.

“We believe it is another evidence of this government trying to rig the outcome of future elections in Nauru so they can retain their seats, and they are going out of their way to make it difficult for others to challenge their incumbency.”

Requests from media to the Nauru government for an explanation of the changes have gone unanswered.