Port Vila Election Petition Dismissed

The election petition submitted by Stephen Felix against five current Members of Parliament (MPs) for Port Vila constituency, including MP Ralph Regenvanu, who secured the highest votes, has been dismissed by the Supreme Court yesterday.

Presiding Judge in this case, Justice Oliver Saksak ruled that the petition of the petitioner is “defective and incomplete”.

Mr. Felix submitted the petition April 21, 2020, on grounds that Principal Electoral Officer (PEO), the first respondent in this case had breached the ruled in schedule 5 of the Representation of the People Act [CAP.146].

He alleged that the PEO allowed 1, 978 more votes that there appeared on the electoral list which were 20, 3999. As a result of these breaches, there were 1, 323 votes not accounted for.

The petitioner also submitted that the fifth respondent, MP Kenneth Natapei collected over 100 electoral cards on March 18, 2020, whom, he alleged were registered to vote.

Felix claimed MP Ulrich Sumptoh, the sixth respondent was not eligible to stand for candidature because he had outstanding debts with Port Vila Municipality.

According to the court, all the named respondents denied the allegations. Out of the six respondents, the First, Fifth and Sixth filed applications seeking orders that the petition be struck out on basis that there is insufficient evidence.

In his discussion, the judge said the petitioner failed to file relevant evidence to support his pleadings and allegations within the 21 days required by section 57 of the Act. “There is no evidence to show he would have had some of the 1, 978 or 1, 323 votes, he alleged were allowed in excess or were unaccounted for, to show that the results as published by the Electoral Commission on April 8, 2020, were or could be affected,” Justice Saksak said.

“There is simply no evidence. There may be some evidence to show some non-compliance by the PEO, but that is not enough to affect the results of the election, to warrant a by-election for the Port Vila constituency.”

Justice Saksak noted that while the petition had been dismissed, valid points were raised by Mr. Felix. The petitioner alleged that the first respondent had breached the rules in schedule 5 of the Representation of the People Act [CAP. 146].

(i) Allowing persons to vote without their names on the register;

(ii) Allowing persons to vote even when they did not reside in Port Vila Constituency;

(iii) Allowing persons to vote using cards belonging to persons whose names were not registered on the roll for their respective polling stations.

The judge cautioned the first respondent that these same mistakes (if they were made) should not be repeated in the 2020 General Election (GE), as well as future GEs.

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