Any poll delay ‘unconstitutional’, warns former PNG elections chief

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PNG's former Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato
PNG's former Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato ... "The EC just [has] to manage and work within the budget." Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

Any deferral of Papua New Guinea’s national general election 2022 will be unconstitutional, warns former Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato.

He said statutory timelines gazetted in the National Gazette for the national elections could not be breached to accommodate a deferral.

“It is important that the 2022 NGE is not deferred. Any idea about deferral will be unconstitutional,” Gamato said in a statement.

“The Head of State must not be misled and asked to [make] unnecessary changes [to] dates for the activities within the electoral cycle.

“Should the Electoral Commission delay the issue of writ by two weeks, where will those two weeks come from?”

“All processes are allocated times by law especially nomination, polling, campaign period, polling and counting.

“The campaign period is eight weeks minimum and 12 weeks maximum including nomination period by law.

Campaign period
“Campaign period cannot be reduced if they want to borrow from the campaign period.

“If they allowed for a buffer at the end of the process [it] is okay but they cannot go past the fifth anniversary of the 10th Parliament (5 years term).”

Gamato said that when the Electoral Commissioner advised the Head of State to approve the dates for the next election event, it was final and they must go by those dates.

He said the Head of State cannot be misled and asked to change the dates of the elections every now and then.

“The national government and the EC had five years to prepare for the elections,” Gamato said.

“We need to manage the electoral budget well and spend according to the phases of electoral activities, with the view to controlling the budget.

“It is a requirement that polling schedules and the roll must be approved by the EC and gazetted in the National Gazette.

Programme strictly adhered to
“It must be strictly adhered to the planned electoral activities such as nominations, polling and counting so that voters are not confused.”

He said the two weeks could not come from the campaign period.

“By law, the campaign period must be held a minimum of 8 weeks and a maximum of 11 weeks including the one week of nomination which brings to 12 weeks, you cannot change that allocated time,” he said.

“The term of the 10th National Parliament ends when the writs for the next election event are returned on or before the fifth anniversary of term.

“No government can conveniently try to extend the election to remain in office or in power after their term expires on the 5th anniversary of their term.’’

“The end of the fifth anniversary is the date the 10th Parliament [that] got sworn in 2017,” he said.

“Observing the statutory timelines are critical, especially when managing a major election event such as this.

“Funding in my view is sufficiently allocated by the national government.

“The EC just [has] to manage and work within the budget.”

The Papua New Guinea general election 2022 runs from Saturday, June 11, to Friday, June 24.

Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

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