Papua New Guinea’s Election Marred By Irregularities

With the conclusion of the elections in Papua New Guinea, doubt has been cast over their impartiality. Despite their registration, thousands of names were left off of the electoral role, thereby preventing their participation in the election process.

Further obstacles to public voting have included a delay in the distribution of ballot materials, insufficient number of ballot papers at multiple polling stations, and the failure to open booths on time. Additionally, previously reported concerns, such as corruption, have again surfaced, with state resources being employed to influence voting. In Ibalibu-Pangia, the electorate of the current Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, voting began two days later than scheduled, and will now be subject to a challenge in the Supreme Court of PNG, which was filed by the opposing candidate, Stanley Liria, who is claiming that the delay represented a breach of the Constitution.

On Sunday, July 9th, all three members of the PNG Electoral Advisory Committee tendered their resignation, claiming they were provided with insufficient information from the Electoral Commission and, therefore, could not verify the transparency of elections. In the electorate of Tari Open, the candidate from Prime Minister O’Neill’s party was said to receive over 30,000 votes, with his three rivals receiving 30,000 votes collectively. With that said, there are only 41,804 voters enrolled from that electorate. Under the law of Papua New Guinea, the Electoral Commission has the authority to identify issues throughout the election process, which may constitute grounds for a failed election, declare a failed election, and advise the head of state on whether to withdraw a writ. Patilias Gamato, the Electoral Commissioner, claimed that at the time of the resignations, the Electoral Commission had been processing the requests of the Electoral Advisory Committee. He has also condemned the behaviour of police personnel towards election observers, including the Melanesian Spearhead Group, who were subject to harassment, aggression, and intimidation from security personnel.

Already, in an attempt to ensure the accuracy of the roll and the presence of undesirable circumstances, the Commonwealth Observer Group have called for an election review. Members of the group have expressed disappointment that their recommendations following the 2012 election have not been acted on, which has contributed to the presence of issues that were also observed at the last election. Similar discontent has been expressed by former Prime Ministers Michael Somare and Mekere Morauta, and Opposition leader Don Polye. Some have gone so far as to blame Australia for supporting the election process and the O’Neill regime.

Voting ended on Saturday 8th July and the results will be announced later in July, with the first Parliamentary sitting scheduled for August.

Ashleigh Streeter-Jones