PNG PM cites ‘extraordinary circumstances’ for election results delay

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has conceded an extension to the date for the return of election results could face legal challenges after a general election marred by violence and corruption claims.

Voting concluded on July 22 in the Pacific island nation’s election, which was blighted by reports of dozens killed, thousands forced to flee homes, and allegations of ballot tampering, despite major police efforts to stop violence.

James Marape is seeking to extend his three years in power in Port Moresby.Credit:AP

In the wake of the turmoil, the government on Friday announced an extension to the return of writs – a procedural step to declare successful candidates – so vote counting could continue in electorates where results remained unclear.

The original July 29 date for the return of writs was initially pushed out to August 12, according to PNG media, before being revised to August 5.

Marape told ABC television the decision to postpone could be challenged in court, but defended the move saying there were “extraordinary circumstances” leading up to it.

“Someone can go to the courts to challenge, but we pretty much, based on advice received, we feel that there is sufficient power the [PNG] Electoral Commission has to make these calls, and he has made these calls,” he said in comment broadcaston Saturday.

John Ume and Rellie Kaputin, flag bearers for Papua New Guinea lead their team at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony on Friday. The country’s three-week election started on July 4 and has not yet concluded.Credit:Getty Images

Of the 118 seats that went to the polls, just 35 have so far been declared, according to vote tracking site One Papua New Guinea.

The two main contenders for prime minister, in the 10th election since independence, are incumbent Marape of the Pangu Party, and former prime minister Peter O’Neill of the People’s National Congress Party. Marape has held the top job in Port Moresby since 2019.

Media have reported there have been roughly 50 election-related deaths this year, down from 204 deaths documented by an Australian National University observer group around the 2017 vote.

PNG’s general election is among the world’s most challenging due to factors including difficult terrain, extreme weather, poor transport infrastructure and linguistic and cultural diversity.

Elections have also long been blighted by fraud and payoffs on top of the deadly violence and an Australian Defence Force team has been deployed to assist more than 10,000 local police and armed forces personnel on security and logistics for this year’s poll.

The resource-rich but largely undeveloped country of almost 9 million has become a focus of attention for both China, its biggest buyer of natural gas, and neighbouring Australia, its largest aid provider.


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