01/07/2012 10:09

Catholic Bishops’ General Secretary can see lights and shadows on National Elections 2012

By Fr Victor Roche, SVD - Catholic Bishops’ Conference General Secretary. As I type these lines in my computer, the National Parliamentary Elections are going on throughout Papua New Guinea and it is the 8th day. There are 4.6 million people registered to vote out of a population of about 7 million. 3428 candidates are vying for just 109 seats in Parliament.   Polling started on June 23rd and the media is filled with stories about elections.

Negative stories about the elections in the two national newspapers and other media  include:

  • Some are frustrated that they could not find their names in the electoral list
  • Some supporters in police uniforms tried to hijack ballot boxes and were arrested by police
  • One man was killed over a dispute over the location of the polling venue
  • Ballot boxes did not arrive in time
  • Some people have tried to vote a second time
  • In some voting booths there were instances of bribing the voters with money or things
  • Some staff members of the Electoral Commission have reported that they have not been paid.

People have blamed Mr. Andrew Trawen and the staff of Electoral Commission for the above problems in the elections. But I have seen the advertisements of election awareness for many months in the media. I also saw a centre-page lift out with information about the electoral officers, places of voting, time of voting etc. They have tried their best in making this election to run smoothly.

Some of the positive aspects of the election as I see:

  • Many people went to vote with great enthusiasm and some of them were still voting around 8 pm. People are serious about exercising their privilege of voting.
  • The Electoral Commission is trying to rectify the errors the best way possible.
  • The security forces are doing a good job in making the election secure and safe.
  • The news reports from the Islands’ Region give a better picture of the Elections.
  • There are many NGOs in the country to help and monitor the elections.
  • The candidates and the people have shown a great interest in the democracy.

Those who criticize the elections should not forget that PNG is a young democracy. This election will not be perfect and errors are bound to happen. After a few more Parliamentary Elections PNG may become a better democracy.  We should not forget that there were uncertainties about the dates of the elections due to political impasse. The Electoral Commission should try to rectify the errors as soon as possible. The people and the candidates should refrain from malpractices and cooperate with the election authorities during the voting and counting.

The polling ends on Friday, 6th July and the writs are to be returned by Friday, 27th of July. I am sure there will be many disappointed candidates who will be challenging the results and thus asking for recounting of the votes. There may be also much violence and deaths after the declaration of results.  But I hope and pray that PNG will continue to be a democratic and a vibrant country in the Pacific. (CBC Communications 010712 – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)