Bougainville elections chief pleased with poll
Bougainville elections commissioner says they have faces some isssues with the current poll but have been able to work through them.
The acting elections commissioner in Bougainville, George Manu, says the election, the first run by Bougainvilleans themselves, has gone smoothly.
Mr Manu says all bar one of the 33 constituencies in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region have finished voting although the official voting period does not end until next Monday.
The one seat where there has been a hold up is in the Atolls where bad weather has kept voting officials from travelling to Tasman Island.
But Mr Manu says people there will now be able to vote on Thursday.
He told Don Wiseman his team has faced challenges but with the help of advisors from the New Zealand and Australian election commissions, they have been able to work through them.
GEORGE MANU: It is not too bad, as you say it has been a trouble free election. Voting has gone very well throughout the region, as well as the five PNG provinces [where booths were set up]. You always have problems with the rolls but we put in place special voting places where people who did not find their names on the certified roll being used by the polling teams. We only had 3 of those special voting places put in the 3 regions. That has helped a lot with people eventually finding their names.
DON WISEMAN: How many people managed to vote in those special booths?
GM: I won't know that until we do the count from Tuesday, but generally there has been flooding into these centres. Those centres have now been closed as of yesterday [Tuesday] because of suspected double voting. People did try to vote a second time from very small voting places, after voting in their villages and coming back into town [Buka, Arawa, Buin]. We are looking into those issues but I will not be able to tell you exactly how many people voted until the vote is counted. But we are distributing the envelopes. What actually happened is votes were put into the envelopes. Those envelopes will now be distributed according to the regions and the constituencies and then that will be sent out to the three counting centres. We are establishing 3 counting centres - one in Buin, one in Arawa and one in Buka. And those envelopes containing those votes will be sent out to those counting centres to be opened when the counting starts.
DW: And that will start on Tuesday. How long do you think the vote count is going to take?
GM: We are scheduled to complete that possibly within seven days but we do have until the 7th June to complete the count and then the return of writs on 8 June.
DW: Will you be announcing preliminary results or will you wait until 7th June before you announce anything?
GM: As counting completes for a constituency we will declare the results, we declare the winners. We do that for all the constituencies and then it's just a matter of returning the writs, the 40 writs on 8th June, back to the speaker.
DW: And no problems, no disorder through this election process?
GM: There has been no problems at all. All elections have their own challenges but we've been able to find ways around them. I've been very happy that we've had very experienced advisers from New Zealand [New Zealand Electoral Commission] and the AEC, (Australian Electoral Commission), in Australia, so they've been a very big help for us in Bougainville. It's the first election that we Bougainvilleans have run for Bougainvilleans so with all the advisers and the expertise available to us, through these advisors from New Zealand and Australia, everything has gone very smoothly throughout the elections.
DW: You felt compelled at one stage to point out to people what the role of the monitors was and there had been complaints about monitors supposedly interfering or the observers supposedly interfering at a polling station. What actually happened there?
GM: It was actually. There were some people there who wanted to, there was an incapacitated person, they tried to drag him there to cast their votes. I think that's what the observers did. It was not so much interfering it was just saying it's a democratic right belonging to the people. Under the law an illiterate person can appoint a person of his or hers to assist them with the marking of the ballot paper. I think that's what the incident was where people tried to get this person into the polling booth but more or less against their will. I think that is where the observer said you can't do that, you can't do that. That's the issue. It wasn't a very big issue. That's about the only incident we had but I did make it clear to all people throughout Bougainville that observers had the right to move around in Bougainville and to ask polling officials questions within the polling booth. Generally, apart from that incident, observers did move around freely, walk to the polling booths in the rural areas. It's not really a very big issue.
DW: Well thank you very much. I appreciate your time. All polling bar one station now is finished?
GM: Yeah. Except for one. Except for one. That is Tasman in the atolls constituency. It's a very remote island and it can now vote tomorrow [Thursday].
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