Early hiccups around polling in PNG

4:30 am on 27 June 2017

While it has only just begun, complaints are already surging in about problems around polling in Papua New Guinea's election.

Polling has been running in various districts of several provinces since Saturday, with other provinces to progressively begin over the next two weeks.

Polling booth PNG election 2017

Polling booth PNG election 2017 Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

It was always expected there'd be voters turning up to polling booths to find out their names are no longer on the electoral roll.

Then there is the case of a woman who said she was turned away by polling officials after they had earlier allowed another person to vote under her name.

There are also ground reports of marked or tampered ballot papers in Morobe, Hela and Central Province, which the Electoral Commission has so far been unable to confirm.

But they followed complaints ahead of polling about a large number of ballot papers finding their way into the hands of candidates around the country.

Polling, however, proceeded during the weekend in the various rural districts largely without security mis-haps.

Under the watch of police, voters showed great patience in long queues throughout the slow procession to the ballot paper.

Police and electoral officials call out names of voters to come and vote, Timini, Morobe Province.

Police and electoral officials call out names of voters to come and vote, Timini, Morobe Province. Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

In the rural Morobe province district of Bulolo, first time voters were relishing the chance to participate in the process.

Despite being a first-time voter, Yamo Joshua said she was aware of what to do.

"I know it, I know it very well," she said, explaining that she'd walked kilometres and waited several hours to vote.

"I'm looking for the better member to be taking my future in."

Voters at polling in Timini, Morobe Province.

Voters at polling in Timini, Morobe Province. Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

PNG elections are conducted under a limited preferential voting system. Some voters are still getting their heads around how to use second and third preferences.

Many though know how to use them strategically.

Ahead of polling, Central Province voter, Vari Kora, said this involved he and fellow villagers congregating at his favoured candidate's home.

"I have to go there to talk, to talk to each other, before I cast my vote," he explained.

Trees are adorned with various campaign posters in Central Province.

Trees are adorned with various campaign posters in Central Province. Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

Traditionally there is a high turnout in PNG elections and 2017 looks unlikely to be an exception.

Yet flaws persist in an electoral roll that various candidates and parties said they were not given adequate opportunity to review.

This could prove problematic in the Highlands region where one-day polling is scheduled for today in several provinces.

In Chimbu, the PNG National Party Leader, Kerenga Kua highlighted blatant recent omissions of key groups in the electoral roll in his Sinasina Yongomugl seat.

On Sunday he issue a statement saying this disadvantaged him while benefiting the ruling People's National Congress party candidate.

PNG voters must dip a finger into indelible ink before voting, an effort to ensure they don't vote twice.

PNG voters must dip a finger into indelible ink before voting, an effort to ensure they don't vote twice. Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

By later that day, the Electoral Commission had agreed to instead proceed with a previous, more accurate version of the roll for that electorate.

However, Mr Kua was concerned that there would be other instances where distribution of numbers on the roll was tampered with at a late stage.

"We are certain that over the coming days more and more reports will be forthcoming from all over the nation as voters go to the polls," Mr Kua said.

"We urge the Electoral Commissioner and his staff to take all allegations seriously, investigate and based on evidence, take action in a timely manner to preserve the integrity of the electoral process."

 Electoral Commission headquarters.

Electoral Commission headquarters. Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

The Commissioner, Patalias Gamato, has said the Commission did its best to update the roll, and that while not perfect, it was improved on previous editions.

The Commission undertook an Australian government-funded process to cleanse and update the electoral roll in 2015.

It appears to have done little to quell perceptions of unfairness in the election.

Bolstered police and defence presence as Highlands provinces go to polls

One-day polling for Papua New Guinea's general election begins in three Highlands provinces this morning amid a bolstered police and defence force presence.

Hela, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands provinces go to the polls today.

In particular, Hela province is the focus of an extra police deployment around polling stations.

Police Commissioner Gary Baki has flown to Hela this morning to oversee the polling security situation.

The end of the campaign period has been relatively peaceful in this region, despite some early unrest.

Other regional provinces, Southern Highlands and Jiwaka go to their polling on Friday, while Western Highlands and Enga are scheduled for 4 July.

Elsewhere, polling will be conducted in the National Capital District tomorrow.

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