8 May 2007

PNG prepares for general election

10:17 am on 8 May 2007

Convoys of trucks and buses packed with chanting political supporters are parading through Papua New Guinea's towns and cities as campaigning gets under way for the country's general election.

PNG's Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane has signed writs for 109 electorates to be contested by well over 3,000 candidates from start of polling on June 30.

Nominations close on Thursday with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare already signing up to try to lead his National Alliance Party to victory and serve in the top job for a fourth time.

The 71-year-old faces a challenge from former treasurer Bart Philemon who he sacked last year after he challenged Sir Michael for the leadership of the National Alliance.

Mr Philemon has set up the New Generation Party and is cooperating with former prime minister Mekere Morauta of the PNG Party to tip Sir Michael out of office.

Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen said he and his team were ready for the vote with around 25,000 polling officials taking part at more than 8,000 polling places around the country.

Around 3.5 million eligible voters have registered to vote.

But there are widespread concerns that the electoral roll is flawed and over-inflated with many "ghost names" of people planning to vote more than once.