People's Alliance Party Leader Sitiveni Rabuka
People's Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka has been named Fiji's new prime minister. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Fiji election app glitch did not breach Electoral Act

Kate Atkinson December 21, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

A glitch in the Fijian Elections Office's Results App was a breach of the Electoral Act and a recount is now required. 

OUR VERDICT

False. The glitch did not breach the Electoral Act.

A Facebook user has claimed a technical glitch that plagued election night in Fiji was a breach of the country’s Electoral Act.

The glitch occurred on December 14, 2022, the night of the Fijian general election, and caused the Fiji Elections Office‘s (FEO) Results App to be taken offline for a number of hours.

As the Act was breached, a court must order a recount, the Facebook user said.

However, the claim is false. Experts have told AAP FactCheck the glitch does not amount to a breach of Fiji’s Electoral Act.

The post (screenshot here), which was made on December 15, reads: “The Electoral Act (Act) provides for counting to be uninterrupted once counting starts so any so called “glitch” is a breach of the Act and the Court must allow a manual recount.

“All opposition parties must stand together on this one.”

Fiji app claim
 The post appeared the day after the election. 

However, experts told AAP FactCheck the claim is false and that the glitch does not amount to a breach of the Electoral Act.

The glitch in question temporarily hampered the ability of the FEO to communicate provisional results to the public, and caused widespread calls for a recount.

Social media users expressed concerns about the results and the integrity of the counting process (examples here, here, here and here). Some Fijian political leaders also asked for military intervention as a result of the interruption.

But experts and the FEO said the glitch did not interrupt the counting of votes – just the communication of results.

Nilesh Lal, executive director of Dialogue Fiji, said in an email to AAP FactCheck that “the Electoral Act 2014 contains no such provision.”

The Act states “the presiding officer must proceed continually with the counting of votes until the count is complete”. It does not make any reference to the FEO Results App.

Ballots being counted in Fiji 2022
 Manual counting of ballots continued while the FEO’s Results App was down. 

 Jon Fraenkel, a professor of comparative politics at Victoria University of Wellington, also said the claim was inaccurate. 

“The count IS done manually. The ‘glitch’ that occurred on Wednesday night/Thursday morning was in the system that publicly released the data,” he said in an email. 

The FEO said technical difficulties were caused by a failed data transfer, which led to some votes being incorrectly allocated to candidates.

The FEO told AAP FactCheck that while issues with the app were being rectified, the manual counting of ballots did not stop. 

“The manual counts continued and results were updated on the Results Management System. This is why after the app was fixed, the numbers were higher,” Mohammed Saneem, supervisor of elections at the FEO, said in an email. 

People’s Alliance party leader Sitiveni Rabuka had been ahead of incumbent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and his FijiFirst party before the glitch. When the app came back online after a number of hours, their positions had switched. 

People's Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka
 People’s Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka will lead Fiji as part of a three-party coalition. 

Videos and photos posted to Facebook by the FEO and the Centre for Credible Election Information show the manual count occurring at the National Count Centre (here, here, here, here and here).

Although the glitch did not breach the Electoral Act, Prof Fraenkel said concerns around the counting process are valid. 

“It’s no surprise the opposition cried ‘foul’. Similar reactions would have occurred in other countries,” he said.

On December 20, 2022 it was announced Sitiveni Rabuka would become the new Prime Minister of Fiji. He will lead a three-party coalition between People’s Alliance, Social Liberal Democratic Party and the National Federation Party.  

AAP FactCheck has addressed other claims about the Fijian election here, here, here and here

The Verdict

The claim that a technical glitch that occurred on the night of Fiji’s election breached the country’s Electoral Act and should therefore result in a recount is false.

Experts and the FEO confirmed the count was done manually and that counting was uninterrupted. The glitch caused a temporary interruption in the communication of results to the public.

False ÔÇö The claim is inaccurate.

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