Commonwealth observers call for ‘urgent review’ of PNG electoral process

Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop (left)
Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop (left) ... calling for calm in the capital and for arrests and charges against those responsible for stirring up the election violence. Image: Inside PNG

RNZ Pacific

The Commonwealth group that has been observing the Papua New Guinea national elections has called for an urgent review of the electoral process.

The leader, former Nauru president, Baron Waqa, said he was gravely concerned at the daily incidents of violence and tragic loss of life that were being reported.

The Commonwealth Observers said the highly centralised structure of the Electoral Commission had undermined the effective delivery of the election.

They said the 2022 rolls were missing a large number of names, which in some cases meant up to 50 percent of eligible voters were not on the rolls.

They were critical of the late and insufficient disbursement of funds, and that unpaid bills and allowances from previous elections, created a lack of trust in the commission.

The observers reported numerous allegations of bribery and treating involving candidates’ agents.

They said they had witnessed the distribution of money and food to voters during the polling period.

They said there were inadequate efforts to facilitate the inclusion and participation of women, youth, persons with disability, and other disadvantaged groups in the political and electoral process.

The Commonwealth wants to see:

  • immediate reforms to strengthen voter registration;
  • the creation of a collaborative and decentralised Electoral Commission that is properly funded by government; and
  • a national network to support voter education and participation.

Moresby governor shocked at election violence
Meanwhile, the Governor of Papua New Guinea’s National Capital District has condemned the violence in the middle of Port Moresby on Sunday afternoon, reports RNZ Pacific.

People presumed to be supporters of rival election candidates clashed at the Sir John Guise Stadium where votes from the national election were being counted.

The attackers were armed with machetes and other weapons.

There are unconfirmed reports that at least two people were wounded.

NCD Governor Powes Parkop
NCD Governor Powes Parkop … the culprits for these “grotesque acts of violence” must be arrested and charged. Image: EMTV News

Governor Powes Parkop said he was shocked to see such “grotesque violence” in the country’s capital, and in broad daylight.

He said it was totally unacceptable and no justification could be made for such unacceptable behaviour.

Parkop said last week that he had asked for police to provide increased security in the election counting centres as he was concerned about the tension and the security risks, but he added that he was not aware that any such efforts had been made.

He said those who committed these “grotesque acts of violence must be arrested and charged and if their candidates are also involved in the planning of these act of violence they too must be arrested and charged.”

Parkop called on all candidates to restrain their supporters and show leadership.

Bishops demand government return to capital
The Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea called on caretaker Prime Minister James Marape and his cabinet to return to the city and sort out the problems from the unruly election.

In a statement, the bishops said the leaders needed to return to supervise the proper completion of the electoral process; to direct the work and the intervention of the security forces; and to guarantee the safety of individuals, public institutions, and businesses.

They said a severe deterioration of events in the National Capital District in the next few hours or days would deprive those currently holding positions of responsibility of any future credibility and trust for the welfare of the country and its citizens.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Unrest over the Port Moresby Northeast election
Unrest over the Moresby Northeast electorate voting in the capital. Image: Inside PNG
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