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Pacific observers note difficulty of elections in PNG

​The Pacific Islands Forum Election Observer Team to the 2017 Papua New Guinea Elections acknowledged the difficult task of coordinating preparations by the Electoral Commission for the 2017 national elections.

Deployed from June 19th till July 24th, the team has observed pre-polling, polling, and counting exercises.

The team notes the challenges in the development of comprehensive plans and strategies for: the procurement and deployment of election materials and equipment; communications and awareness; and the recruitment and training of polling officials, including a workforce of more than twenty thousand temporary electoral workers.

While the process of counting was not standardized across counting centers, it was typically carried out with diligence and efficiency. While some unnecessary delays were witnessed as a result of scrutineer interjections or the lack of payment of counting officials’ fees and allowances, it is clear that the most significant issues that have delayed counting – that have been the cause of real tension for intending candidates and their supporters – have their antecedence in perceived flaws in the polling process. Future reforms of the counting processes should bear this fact in mind.

Several significant challenges were noted, the most serious of which was the alarmingly large number of names missing from electoral rolls. These includes a candidate in one polling station, people who had lived in electorates their whole lives and had voted in previous elections, and people who claimed to have updated their voter details with provincial election offices and/or village and ward recorders. There were also many reports from other election observers of the same.

The purpose of a national election is to provide a standardized process for eligible citizens to select local level representatives to national level leadership roles. An accurate list of eligible voters is therefore an imperative for any election.

The absence of security personnel in some polling stations was noted as was the late deployment of security personnel in some remote locations – both situations reportedly due to the late disbursement of funds. There were also isolated incidences of discrepancies observed in procedures for polling, including assisted polling.

The Forum Team noted that most of these challenges have been raised by previous election observer groups, in 2007 and 2012, with recommendations to address the issues, particularly with regard the electoral roll.

While there have been attempts to improve on aspects of the conduct of elections, the Forum Team is of the view that more concerted and timely effort needs to be made to learn from experiences and prepare for future elections. This includes timely support by the National Government to the Electoral Commission and relevant departments and agencies.

The full report from the Forum Electoral Observance team will be completed once counting finishes and conveyed to the Government of Papua New Guinea.... PacNews
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