The suspended former ruling FijiFirst Party has been given a strict deadline of 15 June to submit its audited financial accounts.

Failure to comply with this requirement may result in the party’s deregistration, unless the Fijian Elections Office receives a compelling explanation justifying their continued registration.

Acting Supervisor of Elections Ana Mataiciwa has emphasised the potential consequences for members of the FijiFirst Party who also hold positions as Opposition Members of Parliament.

She said should the party fail to meet the deadline, these individuals will face a crucial decision.

Mataiciwa said they will be presented with two options: either to become independent candidates or to join one of the three alternative political parties, namely the People’s Alliance Party (PAP), Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), or the National Federation Party (NFP).

“They have stated that they will try and comply, we will just have to wait until 15 June to see whether they will submit it or not but right now, the ball is in their court, if they’ll want to sit for Parliament next week, then they’ll have to submit this week.”

Mataiciwa said in the worst-case scenario, should FijiFirst members choose to resign from Parliament, a by-election will be conducted to fill the vacant seats.

“The Fijian Elections Office, we are mandated to run the elections whether it is an election year or whether it’s a snap election and so whatever the outcome, we are ready.”

The Fijian Elections Office has set a uniform deadline of 15 June for several other suspended parties as well, including the New Generation Party, All Peoples Party, and We Unite Fiji Party.

These parties are also required to submit their audited accounts by this date. Failure to do so puts them at risk of deregistration, mirroring the potential fate of the FijiFirst Party.

According to the 2013 Fijian Constitution, if a Member of Parliament’s seat becomes vacant due to party affiliation, the Electoral Commission must award the seat to the highest-ranked candidate from the same party in the most recent general election who is available to serve at the time of the vacancy. However, if no such candidate is available, a by-election must be held to fill the vacancy.

Similarly, if a seat held by an independent MP becomes vacant during the term, a by-election must be held to fill the vacancy according to the Constitution.

The Constitution also stipulates that the total number of candidates a political party can nominate for a general election must not exceed the total number of seats in Parliament.

Additionally, the total number of candidates a political party can nominate for a by-election must not exceed the total number of vacant seats in Parliament for which the by-election is being held.

The deadline for the submission of financial accounts poses a pivotal moment for the FijiFirst Party and other suspended parties.

Meanwhile, a political pundit is calling for the Fijian Elections Office(FEO) to be fair to all political parties.

Former diplomat and School of Law lecturer at the University of Fiji, Jioji Kotobalavu told FBC News that FEO should not use the law as a political defence against political parties.

Kotobalavu, however, supports the Acting Supervisor of Elections Ana Mataiciwa’s decisions as of date.

“The Supervisor of Elections has the right to do that she’s just following the law. But at the same time treat the parties equally. Don’t use the law as an instrument of penalising a particular party but deal with all. They’re all accountable, they know what to do.”

Kotobalavu said all parties need to be treated fairly.

“Now as a student of law, all I can say is I hope that the Supervisor of Election in dealing with issues treat all the parties fairly. Everybody is entitled to fair and just treatment. Section 16 of the Constitution provides for that,” he said.