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Transparency International PNG slams proposed election laws

CORRUPTION watchdog, Transparency International (PNG) Incorporated, has condemned the proposed changes to election laws describing them as “undemocratic and unconstitutional”. TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens issued a news statement yesterday condemning the proposed changes which would be tabled in Parliament in January. The Government wanted the changes to be approved so that they could come into effect in time for the 2017 National Election.

TIPNG was concerned about the proposed increase in election petition fees from K1000 to K20,000, the increase in nomination fees for Parliament election from K1000 to K10,000 and the campaign period to be reduced from eight to four weeks. Another change in the election law was the increase in local level government nomination fee from K200 to K1000. The National Executive Council had approved the proposed changes to the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections. Drafting instructions had been sent to the government’s First Legislative Counsel to draft the changes for Parliament. Mr Stephens warned: “The democratic rights of all Papua New Guineans will be damaged if proposed legislative changes to election laws are enacted by Parliament. “ TIPNG sees the proposals as undermining the principle of equality for all. “They will severely reduce the rights of citizens to participate in future elections,” Mr Stephens said. He said there has been concern expressed nationwide at news of the proposed change of increasing the election nomination fee for intending candidates from K1,000 to K10,000.

 “The laws of PNG must not be available only to those with cash. We must protect the rights of all citizens regardless of their access to cash,” said Mr Stephens. He added: “The right to stand for public office is enshrined in Section 50 of the National Constitution and should be protected so as to ensure equal participation in our democracy. “Previous Governments’ attempts at increasing the fee have been rightly challenged by the courts as being unconstitutional,” Mr Stephens said. TIPNG was particularly concerned by the proposal to impose a K20,000 fee for filing election petitions. Mr Stephens said this created a barrier for citizens wishing to demand justice during elections. TIPNG called on the National Executive Council, the Parliament, the PNG Electoral Commission and all arms of government to insist on the protection of citizens’ rights to participate equally in free and fair elections both as voters and as candidates.
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