PNG election chief described as complicit in fraud

4:57 pm on 20 July 2017

The leader of Papua New Guinea's National Party says that without an explanation about the use of extra ballot papers the electoral commissioner, Patilias Gamato, is complicit in election fraud.

Kerenga Kua

Kerenga Kua Photo: Loop PNG

Kerenga Kua is set to retain his seat in Sinasina-Yonggamugl and his party is tracking strongly in various electorates where results are yet to be declared.

However, as vote counting advanced at a glacial pace across PNG, Mr Kua said the election had been fraught with inconsistencies which appeared to favour the ruling People's National Congress party.

Ommissions of names from PNG's electoral roll has been a feature of previous PNG elections, but the problem has been widespread in this year's edition and appears to have disadvantaged key voter bases.

There are also claims the Electoral Commission created nearly 300,000 'ghost voters' in PNC-controlled electorates, allowing for more instances of double voting and ballot fraud.

According to Mr Kua, the Electoral Commission had printed many extra ballot papers in excess of the number of voters on the roll.

"The Electoral Commissioner knows a lot more than he's letting on," Mr Kua said.

"I believe that unless he comes out with clear answers as to the total number of ballot papers printed, and how those extra ballots have been accounted for etcetera, I will say - as a national leader here in this country - that he is complicit in the whole design and implementation of this fraud."

Mr Kua's National Party could play a central role in the formation of a coalition government alternative to the incumbent administration led by the ruling People's National Congress of Peter O'Neill.

Early in the vote count, the PNC has more seats than any other parties, but a group of other parties opposing it - including the Pangu Pati, National Alliance, Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party and Mr Kua's party - could yet join forces to topple Mr O'Neill if they get enough MPs.

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

In terms of lobbying to form a ruling coalition, the PNC had the advantage of having the first couple of MPs-elect declared.

Yet the first result, that of PNC strongman James Marape's victory in Tari-Pori was controversial, according to Mr Kua.

Mr Marape was declared the winner of the seat by the Electoral Commission with 30,192 votes, just over 50 per cent of the 60,000 votes cast in his constituency.

However, Mr Kua said that the last updated electoral roll had only about 40,000 eligible voters in the Tari-Pori electorate, demonstrating the number of voters had been inflated.

"So how is it that in the final count the total number of votes cast and counted is far in excess of the names on the common roll?" he asked

"That highlights the fact that there are extra ballot papers that have been floated out, voted on and somehow counted."

While yet to address the claim about 300,000 'ghost names' on the roll, Mr Gamato brushed off allegations about inflated rolls and vote rigging, saying there was no evidence.

According to Mr Kua, it was as if the commissioner was blindfolding himself.

"The evidence is right there in front of him. Take Tari-Pori, he's got the counting results and he's got the common roll that was used, in his hands. The evidence is right there," he said.

"There's more votes cast than the names registered on the common roll."

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