2 Jul 2007

Fears of backlash in PNG over election rolls

2:20 pm on 2 July 2007

Papua New Guinea police are expecting a backlash from disgruntled Southern Highlanders who found their names cut from the electoral roll when trying to vote on the weekend.

But authorities hope unhappy candidates and disenfranchised voters, who could run into tens of thousands, take their grievances to the courts rather than resort to violence as they have in the past.

In 2002, polls in six of the Southern Highlands' nine electorates were declared invalid because of violence, gunpoint intimidation and vote rigging.

This election, about 2,000 police, soldiers and prison officers have been deployed to the province to provide security.

Police reported mostly peaceful polling in the province on the weekend and no major incidents apart from the theft of one ballot box containing votes.

Candidates and voters at polling areas across several electorates in the Southern Highlands reported thousands of names missing from the final electoral lists.

Nipa-Kutubu returning officer Robin Pip said that in his electorate nearly 12,000 voter names had been stripped from the submitted roll when it returned from revision in Port Moresby.

He says in one case, all 744 people in one village were disenfranchised.