11 Dec 2008

Bougainville's presidential election sees a slow start

11:16 am on 11 December 2008

Bougainville's presidential election has seen a slow start with poor voter turn-out and heavily armed road blocks stopping some regions from voting.

Bougainville last Saturday began choosing a new leader after former president Joseph Kabui died from a heart attack in June this year.

Voting in Papua New Guinea's autonomous region has seen less than expected numbers in the north and the capital Buka, while ongoing disputes in central and southern parts has meant not one vote has been cast.

Bougainville minister for local level government Jonathon Ngati told the news agency AAP that armed ex-soldiers and former commandos in his southern region had refused to end their road block.

The heavily armed men want over 49 thousand US dollars from the government after one of their relatives died in a failed raid on a pyramid scheme operator.

Meanwhile, another group in central Bougainville will not allow voting until the government pays for the late president Kabui's funeral costs.

Australian National University professor Anthony Regan, who works with the Bougainville government, said there were numerous reasons why there was a poor showing at the polls.

He said there are 14 candidates and no ideological battles or inspiring campaigns.

He said it has not been a presidential style race between two candidates as we have seen in the past.