29 Jun 2012

Polling problems used in power play during PNG's election

5:04 pm on 29 June 2012

Problems with voting in Papua New Guinea's elections have placed renewed pressure on the country's Electoral Commissioner midway through the two-week polling process.

Reports are emerging from a number of regions across the country which have already held polling that many eligible voters' names are missing from the electoral roll.

This follows numerous delays in polling stations being set up and several reports of ballot boxes being interferrred with.

Johnny Blades reports that the polling issues are playing a role in the strategising among contenders for Prime Minister.

The caretaker deputy Prime Minister has launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and the Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen over the state of the electoral rolls.

Belden Namah says they should have listened to his call earlier this year for a deferral of elections in order to properly prepare for polling.

Parliament passed a motion to defer the election by six months earlier this year before Mr O'Neill insisted it wasn't binding on the Commissioner who has the final say in this matter.

Even a few days ago, Andrew Trawen insisted that the rolls were complete.

"This is the first time that the Commission has come under a lot of pressure from politicians in terms of getting the elections ready. Because of the parliament's decision to defer the elections, they were saying that the Commission's not ready with the electoral rolls when in fact, we were ready."

The Green Party's Dorothy Tekwie says if anyone should complain about the election process, it's her and other candidates standing against Belden Namah in Vanimo Green.

Belden Namah actually is complaining because the people that he has paid, or bought, that he has given money to are not able to vote because they basically are people who are looking for money and are not on the common roll and he should have done his homework to check that they are on the common roll before he gave them the money.

However Dorothy Tekwie says while there are issues with delays and voters being unable to vote, overall polling has been satisfactory.

Reports from most provinces that have held polling so far also say that the process has been relatively smooth.

Meanwhile Mr O'Neill has dismissed Mr Namah's comments as opportunistic, saying it's not the job of politicians to run elections but the job of the Electoral Commission.

He says the motive of politicians to defer the elections has little to do with lack of preparedness by the Electoral Commission.

A former military officer in his early 40s, Belden Namah is polarising opinion in this election.

After he stormed into the Supreme Court last month with police and military officers to arrest the Chief Justice for sedition, many people see him as the biggest threat to PNG's democracy.

Others like his self-proclaimed 'bold new style of leadership', as he described himself during campaigning, the alternative to the 'dinosaurs' of PNG politics.

This is campaign time, I have to tell you the truth about leadership in this country. You know what dinosaur is? When scientists make study of dinosaur, they only find skeleton and no living being in a dinosaur. That is what Sir Michael Somare is. Their time has come. They should realise that there is a limit in life.

However with Belden Namah's alliance with Peter O'Neill appearing to be on the rocks, their respective chances of being Prime Minister after the election may have diminished.

Both are highly unlikely to end up in a coalition with the man they unconstitutionally ousted as Prime Minister last August, Sir Michael Somare, who says these men face jail for continuing to operate as an illegal government.

Went back to court again, we challenged in court, and I won again. But the man does not seem to understand the rule of law in this country, and is not upholding the constitution. I'll be taking them to court for contempt of court, from Speaker, Prime Minister, deputy Prime Minister, the whole cabinet under contempt of court charges at the moment in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Dorothy Tekwie is among a group of 14 candidates, mostly in Belden Namah's seat, who have petitioned the electoral commissioner for extra help to counter vote rigging in this election.

Including transparent counting and the inclusion of Australian and New Zealand Defence Force in assisting with the transportation and protection of the ballot boxes. we have expressed our concern because the ballot boxes have arrived late. And in this particular electorate we have potential for vote-rigging which has happened in previous elections.

The caretaker government has asked the Electoral Commission to allow the use of a supplementary roll at polling stations as a back-up for the updated common rolls.