Two-week poll in Pa­pua New Guinea ham­pered by dis­rup­tions

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

SYD­NEY: Polling in Pa­pua New Guinea has been ham­pered by re­ports of dis­rup­tions and vot­ers be­ing left off the elec­toral roll, but the head of an in­ter­na­tional elec­tion ob­server group said yes­ter­day there was no ev­i­dence they were de­lib­er­ate.

The two-week long elec­tion to de­cide who will lead the re­sourcerich South Pa­cific na­tion be­gan on June 24, pit­ting 3 332 can­di­dates from 44 po­lit­i­cal par­ties against each other for a place in the 111-seat par­lia­ment.

But re­ports of prob­lems at vot­ing booths and al­le­ga­tions of bal­lot fraud have soured the mood among some in a coun­try which has a his­tory of elec­toral vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion. “There have clearly been prob­lems…

“But to be fair, in our ob­ser­va­tion, the govern­ment has en­deav­oured to ad­dress these,” Sir Anand Satyanand, chair­man of the Com­mon­wealth ob­server group, said.

Prob­lems with the 2017 elec­toral roll have meant that the 2012 roll was be­ing used in some ar­eas, pre­vent­ing some peo­ple from cast­ing votes.

Lo­gis­ti­cal is­sues, poor trans­porta­tion links and bad weather had dis­rupted vot­ing in other parts of the coun­try.

Prime Min­is­ter Peter O’Neill, who is in a strong po­si­tion to re­tain power, has re­jected ac­cu­sa­tions by op­po­si­tion politi­cians that he is to blame for the elec­tion is­sues.

“The elec­toral roll is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion and is in­de­pen­dent,” he said.

“Failed lead­ers can make any claim they like, but they never back this up with proof.”

Satyanand said he had seen no ev­i­dence to sug­gest the is­sues were planned.

Despite its min­eral wealth, which in­cludes Exxon Mo­bil’s $20 bil­lion (R26bn) LNG plant, most of Pa­pua New Guinea’s 8 million peo­ple live at sub­sis­tence level on is­lands, atolls and in re­mote moun­tain vil­lage. The rugged ter­rain and poor in­fra­struc­ture make hold­ing an elec­tion dif­fi­cult. The coun­try’s credit rat­ing was down­graded to B2 by Moody’s in April last year.

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