21 Jun 2002

Counting begins in PNG election amid calls for poll to be declared null and void

10:49 am on 21 June 2002

Counting has begun in Papua New Guinea's general election after delays due to security concerns and power blackouts, but calls are growing for the poll to be declared null and void

The election has been marred by deaths and violence, stolen ballot boxes, multiple voting and incomplete electoral rolls.

Thousands arrived at polling stations only to find they were unable to cast a vote because they have been left off the rolls.

A former premier of Western Highlands where at least two people have died in election violence called for the poll to be abandoned and the province's Governor Robert Lak warned of "tribal war" if the poll was not cancelled.

The Western Highlands Deputy Administrator Malcolm Culligan says people were forced to vote under the barrel of the gun .

"the Electoral Commission has not given the election a rejection period. The common roll was mixed up all over. we have guns. People have been casting votes under gunpoint. We have underage children have cast votes, again under the gun.."

Malcolm Culligan

It's claimed that as many as 50 percent of voters in Western Highlands were prevented from voting

Heavily armed police have been flown into the province to maintain order while the vote is counted.