By Paul Bungtabu and Poreni Umau in Rabaul
It took 20 years and just three votes to unshackle anti-corruption champion Dr Allan Marat’s grip on the Rabaul Open seat in East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea’s general election.
His reign finally came to an end at 5pm yesterday when Rabaul Open Returning Officer Babel Umri announced Graham Piniau Rumet, son of legendary Mataungan leader late Daniel Rumet, was the new member-elect for Rabaul.
Dr Allan Marat calmly and graciously accepted his defeat and announced he would retire to his family home to take care of the family business.
It was a political race that went down to the wire and is the closest winning margin in the 47-year history of the PNG Parliament.
Dr Marat led the preliminary count all the way until box 20, which was the final box for the electorate, registering 4317 votes with Rumet at his heels on 2683 votes.
At the end of the preliminary count, none of the nine candidates met the absolute majority figure and the count went into the elimination round.
United Labour Party candidate Raymond Paulias was the kingmaker when the distribution of his second and third choice votes gave Rumet 5192 votes to Mara’s 5189.
His winning votes came from the preferential votes of Paulias who was eliminated in the seventh round.
Dr Marat, who was regarded as one of the Gazelle Peninsula’s robust, transparent, anti-corruption voices, lost by a mere three votes.
Rumet, who was in Kokopo, had to rush to the Sir Ronald ToVue Hall at the Malaguna Technical Secondary School to be declared by Umri in the presence of the Provincial Administrator and Chairman of the Provincial Election Steering Committee Wilson Matava.
The Matupit man was hoisted high on the shoulders of jubilant supporters and was carried into the hall with chants of “Graham! Graham! Graham”!
In his maiden speech, Rumet said he would stand for change in the Rabaul district.
He acknowledged his loyal supporters and also the people of Rabaul for having the confidence in him to be their leader for the next five years.
“We’ve prepared ourselves for 15 years for this victory today,” he said.
He assured the people of Rabaul that he would work closely with them to bring change to the district.
“I want to thank the previous member for being the captain of our vessel for the past 20 years,” he said.
Rumet’s declaration is the second for East New Britain Province with Pomio MP Elias Kapavore retaining his seat with an absolute majority win of 11,949 votes and 55 counts of ballot papers.
Kapavore is the first People’s National Congress (PNC) candidate in the country to win his seat.
Paul Bungtabu and Poreni Umau are PNG Post-Courier reporters. Republished with permission.