May 16, 2017 1:33 pm

The “number of the Beast” set to appear on Fiji’s ballot paper

Aspiring parliamentarians running for the 2018 General Elections could be stuck with an unholy candidate number.

The Fijian Electoral Commission yesterday approved the number 508 as the first number to appear on the 2018 ballot paper. With more than 200 candidates expected to contest, the sequence of figures would exceed 708.

This means that one candidate would be assigned the number 666, and it is hard to imagine that number being anyone’s first choice.

In popular culture, 666 has become a widely recognised symbol of the Antichrist, or the Devil himself. In some translations of the Bible, the number 666 is said to be that of the “Beast”, a creature appearing before the end of the world.

Hollywood has produced a range of movies on the subject of "the Beast".
Hollywood has produced a range of movies on the subject of “the Beast”.

Questions sent to the elections office were unanswered when this article was published, but the Electoral Act 2014 gives some clues on how numbers will be assigned.

When nominations for the 2018 elections close, the elections office is required to do a barrel draw to determine the order in which candidates would appear on the ballot.

Balls would be produced with sequential numbers starting from 508. The number of balls equals the number of candidates, while the elections office determines the size and colour of the balls.

The names of candidates are listed in alphabetical order, and one ball is picked by a blindfolded person until all candidates have been assigned a number.

There is no provision to ask for a change in candidate numbers, and the elections office is required to publish the National Candidates List as soon as possible.

A video released by the elections office showed a blindfolded man, ushered by another man, pick three balls from a revolving barrel to determine the starting number, 508. A police officer stood guard, and election officials supervised the whole process.

The learned Suresh Chandra had earlier announced that the starting number would be between the range of 400 and 500. It is unclear how 508 fits within that range, but the draw was done peacefully.

In 2014, the first number on the ballot paper was 135.

The Government earlier this year made changes to the Electoral Act 2014 to prevent reusing numbers from 2014. This means numbers like 279, which attracted more than 202,000 votes, would not be reused.

Should the number 666 be of concern to aspiring candidates for next year’s elections? Let us know in the comments or email [email protected]