Bougainville electoral chief dismisses criticism of count
Bougainville's electoral chief has dismissed criticism of the vote counting process, saying he stands by the way his officials carried out the work.
The acting Electoral Commissioner in Bougainville, George Manu, says he is satisfied with the way the recent election has been conducted.
He says aggrieved candidates can take any concerns to court but he stands by the process used.
There have been complaints from disgruntled candidates, including Sam Kauona, who came third in the presidential race.
Mr Kauona has alleged ballot tampering but Mr Manu dismisses this.
He says it would have been impossible.
GEORGE MANU: I think every losing candidate has the right to say anything that they see. I, as the head of the election process, I am satisfied with the whole process. I believe we have delivered the election successfully. Delivered the 14 members, including the president. I think we conducted the elections according to the time frames we set. The schedule that we set. We returned the writs on time on the date when writs were supposed to be returned, that was June 8th. So I am quite satisfied and a lot of people are satisfied with the results but I suggest that the aggrieved candidates can take the result to the Courts to Disputed Returns but as I say I'm satisfied with the way the election was delivered, was conducted and I will defend the process by it was conducted.
DON WISEMAN: One of the things that had come up, people had told me in Buka is that when the sorting process before the counting began that that was just done by electoral commission officials and there was not other people around. The others who should have been there, the scrutineers and everyone else wasn't there. Is that in fact the case?
GM: I think that is a lie. If they are talking about the sorting out of the presidential ballot, I think this was conducted in front of scrutineers, international observers. There was a lot of transparency involved in the sorting out of the presidential ballot. I think the issue here is probably what they think is the sorting out of the reconciliation process we did before the presidential ballot boxes were sent into Buka. The process was very simple. It was the reconciliation of misplaced ballot papers in the presidential ballot boxes and the constituency ballot boxes. Certainly there were misplaced papers found in those boxes, so there was no sorting out as to how many each candidate got, particularly with the presidential ballot box. All we did was the normal process. Sort out the misplaced ballot papers, then counted the ballot in there. So we knew how many was in the ballot boxes, according to the fair returns but we didn't know how many each candidate had so the number of ballots in those ballot boxes balanced up with our returns. We had all the returns available. There was no way we could, in front of international observers, in front of scrutineers, where we could have put in new ballot papers or whatever because the number in there is still the same as the number we had with polling officials returns.
DW: Of course that's the implication isn't it? In fact, that is what Sam Kauona is saying, that some voting papers were taken out and others were slipped in. That's the claim they were making.
GM: No. I think that's not true. That's not true. It couldn't have happened. This was the process and it was done in the eyes of the international observers and scrutineers. We had, well in advance before polling and during the polling period I was always on the radio talking about the reconciliation process and nobody ever came to say it's not right. Everybody is starting to talk after we have done the reconciliation process. Of course that was done and we have been cleared by the scrutineers so we cannot be accused of tampering with the ballot because that is the period from the 30th [May] to the 2nd [June].
DW: I have to ask these questions because they have been thrown out there. The thing that seems to be the thing that is confusing these people is the very high figures they've seen for John Momis but this to me suggests to me that they are having difficulty getting their heads around how LPV works and what happens to numbers once other candidates get eliminated. Do you think that's the cause?
GM: Yeah, well, as to the high number of votes to Momis they will have to talk to the people of Bougainville, and not us, I mean they are the people who voted. The LPV, we have been using LPV for the last, since 2005. All these elections LPV has been the process we have been using to conduct the elections. So yes some people are not too certain of preferential LPV but before we went to the polls we conduct an awareness programmes and we did that. We had awareness teams going up throughout the constituencies conducting the awareness on the LPV, on to how to mark the ballot papers and one is the first person, the first candidate of their choice and second to the second choice and we don't think that [lack of knowledge of preferential voting] is the case.
DW: So what would you put this reaction from the losing candidates down to? Just unhappy that they lost?
GM: I really don't know, but they have their rights to take the process to the Court of Disputed Returns and that's all I can say. I cannot say anything other than that.
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