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Saturday 12 March 2016 | Published in Regional


YAREN – The Nauru government has dramatically increased the fee for candidates wanting to run in its upcoming elections 20-fold from around $100 to $2000.

The fee hike was passed by Nauru’s Parliament on Thursday, and adds to recent electoral reforms that require public servants to resign from their positions three months ahead of the polls if they want to stand for election.

While other countries in the region including Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu also charge high candidate fees, suspended Nauru MP Roland Kun believes the move is aimed at reducing the competition once the election is called.

“We believe it’s just to hinder people who might be contesting against the current Government of Nauru in the upcoming election,” he told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.

“The minister for finance debated that they needed to raise the money to fund the election,” Kun said, adding that the requirements for funding the election were not adequately explained.

The details of the new act have yet to be released, with Nauruans and suspended MPs hearing about the changes in a local parliamentary broadcast.

Another suspended MP and former justice minister, Mathew Batsiua, told Radio New Zealand that two electoral changes announced on Thursday further undermined democracy on the island.

“One is to establish an electoral commission, and that electoral commission will basically be in charge of elections and I think that is quite reasonable. But – we don’t know the details so we will reserve judgment on that until we see the Act,” he said.

“The second change is to increase the fees for candidates. And the third main change that they have put in is increasing the transfer fees for voters wishing to transfer from one electorate to another from $10 to now $150.

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

Fellow opposition MP Roland Kun said the fee rise was simply engineered to block candidates in the upcoming election.

“A lot of prospective candidates will not be able to afford that kind of fee on the Nauruan salary,” he said.

Other recent changes passed by parliament included a new rule that anyone holding a public service job had to resign from their post three months before an election. An election must be held in Nauru by mid-year.

“Some individuals have already resigned from their jobs, so they won’t be working for three months, and a lot of those people will now not be able to afford the candidate fee,” Kun said.

Five opposition MPs, including Kun and Batsiua, have been suspended from parliament for nearly two years for criticising the government and speaking with foreign media, including the ABC.

It is not know if they will be able to stand again in future elections.

- PNC sources