30 Jun 2007

Papua New Guineans go to the polls in general election

5:22 am on 30 June 2007

Papua New Guineans go to the polls today amid heavy security in the Highlands aimed at preventing the intimidation and vote rigging that marred the 2002 election.

A threat of disruption in the Southern Highlands was defused yesterday after a group of angry candidates withdrew their call to have the poll deferred.

They accused the Electoral Commission of rigging the electoral process after receiving the final rolls for the province only this week, and finding that thousands of their supporters' names had been dropped from the register.

The province is the first in the Highlands to vote today at the start of an 11-day voting period across PNG to elect 109 MPs.

The Acting Provincial Police Commander Theodore Muriki said yesterday he was confident that the 2,000 security personnel in the Southern Highlands would ensure no serious trouble occurred during polling and counting.

The Highlands provinces are renowned for their high number of illegal firearms, but Mr Muriki said there had been no reports of guns being shown during the election campaign.

In 2002, polls in six of the Southern Highlands nine electorates were declared invalid because of violence, gunpoint intimidation and vote rigging.