25 Jun 2012

Deaths mar PNG's new Hela and Southern Highlands voting

1:04 pm on 25 June 2012

Papua New Guinea electoral officials say 80 to 90 percent of polling was carried out freely in Southern Highlands and the newly created Hela

province at the weekend.

This is despite reports of violence and chaos in this part of the Highlands which was among the first regions to vote in the two-week polling period.

Johnny Blades reports from Port Moresby.

"Hela and Southern Highlands Province have each had at least one reported death from election-related violence at the weekend. Ballot boxes were also interfered with in some parts of this region which as the hub of PNG's 15 billion US dollar LNG project is vitally important to the country's economy. Furthermore in Hela many people were unable to vote individually because of electoral roll mistakes or he practice of block voting which has been discouraged by the Electoral Commission. Frustrations had built up among voters when polling began half a day late on Saturday. Authorities extended the polling into a second day. However police say most ballot boxes are safe and untampered with. Polling in other parts of the country has been getting underway relatively incident-free."