20 May 2005

Bougainvilleans return to their villages for historic election

4:30 pm on 20 May 2005

People in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville have lined up at polling booths to elect their first autonomous government.

Today marks the start of polling which follows a drawn-out peace process that ended years of secessionist conflict.

People have lined up to cast their ballots for a president and 39-seat assembly, returning to their villages because law requires that they vote there.

The United Nations, the Pacific Forum, the Commonwealth, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have all sent election observers.

Police and electoral officials say they are confident the polling will go smoothly until the second of June.