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July 31, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Papua New Guinea Election Woes

Violence and procedural failures have marred Papua New Guinea’s 2017 general election.

Voting closed on July 8, with 3332 candidates contesting 111 seats in the National Parliament, the body tasked with electing a new Prime Minister.

Wabag, capital of the Enga province, remained in lockdown for five days after a gunfight between rival supporters. Police confirmed four fatalities, with clashes part of an ongoing dispute over vote counting procedure in the electorate.

Tensions arose over returning officer Ben Bosawe’s decision to not count at least fourteen ballot boxes, despite the Electoral Commissioner’s instructions to include them in the vote. A peaceful protest was staged in Wabag on July 21 by supporters of various candidates, urging Bosawe to adhere to the Commissioner’s directive.

The Pacific Islands Forum, in an interim report, noted that it was “disappointing that a large number of Papua New Guinea citizens were disenfranchised of their constitutional rights to vote, particularly given the high levels of civic awareness and interest in participating.”

Prior to the election, a polling station at the University of Papua New Guinea received only around 1300 blank ballot papers despite a 4000 strong voting population. Students at the University of Technology in Lae set fire to ballot papers after only 1500 were provided for a voting population of approximately 5000. 

The Pacific Islands Forum identified reports of an “alarming number of names” absent on the electoral roll. Cases were reported of residents, despite living in the electorate and having previously voted, arriving at polling stations to find their names missing on the roll.

On July 28, the Electoral Commissioner will present all returned writs to the head of state, identifying the new parliament. Incumbent PM Peter O’Neill, winner of the Ialibu-Pangia District, and his governing People’s National Congress (PNC) hold a majority of 16 in the 46 declared seats, as at July 25. The Alliance, a new coalition between the National Alliance, Pangu, and People’s Progress parties and numerous independents and minority parties, present the biggest opposition to the incumbents.

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