Port Moresby takes second run at poll plagued by scandal

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Updated

June 30, 2017 13:51:32

Voters in Port Moresby are going to the polls for a second time today, after the first attempt earlier in the week was aborted by electoral officials.

The Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission cancelled voting in the capital on Tuesday after polling staff went on strike over unpaid allowances.

Police arrested Port Moresby’s election manager and two returning officers, adding to the confusion and public apprehension around the electoral process.

The city’s replacement election manager, Alvin Jimmy, asked the residents of the National Capital District for their support and understanding.

Trying to reassure voters, Mr Jimmy promised to do his best to make the election go ahead the second time around.

“I’d like to apologise to the NCD people and the voters and even candidates and scrutineers — I’m very sorry,” he said.

“What has happened has happened, but otherwise we can correct it. We are just human.”

Mr Jimmy said the small number of votes that were cast on Tuesday’s cancelled poll will no longer count.

“You bury a person in the ground, that’s it, you never going to open the grave and bring the life of a person back,” he said.

“So when these papers is now ignored meaning it’s no good now, you can’t use them — we are going to issue them with new papers.”

Continued scandal feeding public mistrust

The previous election manager, who Mr Jimmy is replacing, was arrested on Tuesday when police found $75,000 in his car.

A returning officer and an assistant were separately arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle ballot papers out of election headquarters.

The arrests compounded the embarrassment for the Electoral Commission and fed tension and mistrust among the city’s residents.

Yesterday, Mr Jimmy addressed a crowd of uneasy candidates and supporters outside the Port Moresby netball centre.

“Now I’d like to assure everyone in NCD that the election must proceed tomorrow, even though we’ve only got one day,” he said.

“Today I’m making sure that everything is prepared and in place.”

Candidates running in the election, like Shelley Launa, are not satisfied but they want the poll to proceed.

“Either way we still going to lose if we said ‘don’t let the elections go ahead’,” Ms Launa said.

“We have to go to the polls and vote, even if we know in our heart that it’s not a fair election.”

But Port Moresby is not alone. Similar problems are being echoed across the country.

Candidates say voters in areas hostile to the Government have been taken off the electoral roll, and there are documented incidents of ballot papers stolen and boxes destroyed.

The organisation of ballot distribution and collection, as well as the deployment of security forces, has also been poor.

Ms Launa said all these things are not going unseen by candidates and voters.

“The common roles have been tampered, the ballot papers have been tampered, the polling places are changed around, the polling officials are not paid, which is something they would have done three months before — they did not do that,” she said.

“So really, it’s not a fair election, but for us we want to believe that our country will recover from this.”

Voting has been moving progressively across the country and is scheduled to continue in other parts of PNG until July 8.

Topics:

world-politics,

elections,

papua-new-guinea,

pacific,

asia

First posted

June 30, 2017 13:41:22



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