2807 Statement on the occasion of Return of Writs for 2017 election

As Election Commissioner, it gives me great pride today to return the writs to the Head of State, His Excellency the Governor General Sir Bob Dadae. Today I have returned 77 writs to the Governor General. In all, 86 electorates have been declared with a further 25 remaining to be declared. The remainder should be completed soon.

The Governor General has granted permission to extend the deadline for those writs as they come in over the next few days. There is provision for this under special circumstances in the Organic Law. 

In all fairness and for public interest, I have instructed that counting for the remaining 25 electorates continue till they finish the process.

I will not fail elections in any electorate because election is a very expensive exercise and the government plus candidates have spent millions of kina.

It would be good if the remaining 25 electorates complete their counting process and make their declarations before Parliament first meets, which is on 4 August 2017 so that the 25 Members can be part of the election of the Speaker of the House and election of the Prime Minister for PNG’s 10th Parliament.

Now, let me make some general remarks about the election.

Elections in Papua New Guinea are never a simple affair. In a country of nearly
eight (8) million people with many remote areas that are inaccessible by road.

The logistical challenges are huge, but we have overcome them. Tens of thousands of polling officials and counting officials have given their time and their effort for the good of the country. We thank them for their hard work and dedication.

I thank the 3,340 candidates for their participation, particularly the 167 women candidates that ran for election – an increase of 20 per cent from last time. I appreciate those candidates that have run good, positive campaigns. 

The Commission regrets the disturbances and disruptions to the peace seen during the election. Any violence related to the polls is unnecessary and harms our democracy and our community.

I appeal for calm in Mount Hagen and other areas. The proper recourse for complaints about the election is in the Courts, not on the streets.

The Commission looks forward to a time when our elections are free of all such incidents. At times people are literally fighting for election, and that must stop. Every Papua New Guinean has an equal voice in our democracy.

We are a young country, still developing.

I have acknowledged problems with the voter roll. I will examine them fully and recommend a course of action to rectify any problems identified.

The Commonwealth Observers said in their interim report that they expected the election to deliver the will of the people. The PNGEC has indeed achieved that. The counting is not yet finished, but it soon will be, and every electorate should be represented.

It should be noted that approximately half the members-elect are new members. Voters have been able to cast their verdicts on incumbents, and reject them if they were not pleased with their performance over the past five years.

Results will be challenged, of course. It is right and proper that results can be challenged in the courts.

There have been successes with this election.

The PNGEC initiated separate queues at polling locations for women and people with disabilities, to speed things up and reduce the risk of intimidation. These have been a good innovation.

The PNGEC has reviewed and refreshed its polling and counting procedures for a stronger process with greater integrity.

For the first time, we have used an electronic payment system for temporary election workers, to create greater financial management oversight.

There were complaints about slow payment, but very often this was because PNGEC headquarters had not received proper bank details. When we did receive the right information, payments were made in good time.

The country has now staged its third election using the LPV system. It has gained widespread acceptance.

When you have so many candidates, it is best way to give voters more than one choice and to ensure a representative result.

It is a complicated system, much more complicated than systems in many older democracies. But with practice and with careful voter education, our people and our officials have mastered it. 

The PNGEC is always examining new ways to improve our elections, and to serve the country better.

That effort will continue with maximum effort in the future.

Thank you.

Media Consultant

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