Growing disquiet over PNG election rule changes

11:59 am on 16 January 2017

There's growing disquiet in Papua New Guinea over government plans for tweaking election rules ahead of the upcoming polls.

PNG is due to go to the polls for its five-yearly general elections in mid-2017, but they may be deferred slightly, according to the Electoral Commissioner.

PNG Party rally during the 2012 Papua New Guinea election campaign.

PNG Party rally during the 2012 Papua New Guinea election campaign. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Patilias Gamato said that the writs for the elections may be put back at least a month until May 20 because of legislation before parliament.

The newspaper, The National, reports him saying PNG's cabinet wants to reduce the campaign period from two months to one month, a legislative change which requires two readings in parliament.

Among other amendments to election rules is an increase in the basic nomination fee for candidates from $US300 to $US3000, or $10,000 kina.

However, opposition MPs have raised alarm about the changes, saying they infringe on the people's democratic rights and marginalise candidates outside the ruling party.

The Governor of Oro province Gary Juffa said that to make last minute amendments without consulting stakeholders, when the government had five years to do so, "smacks of election rigging".

According to PNG Today, Mr Juffa questioned why funding for Electoral Roll updates in the provinces had been withheld and other preparatory work delayed.

"Since the economy is doing so well, as the PM keeps telling us, there should be no excuses for the suppression of funds," Mr Juffa said.

The Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has issued a statement saying the elections would be transparent and delivered in an efficient and effective manner right across the country.

"We cannot allow the wastage and exorbitant cost that was seen at previous elections to continue," Mr O'Neill said, adding that security would be maintained around the polls.

However, the opposition leader Don Polye warned that the National Executive Council should not interfere with well-established guidelines for PNG's elections process.

He called on the Electoral Commission to remain independent and not be dictated to by the cabinet.

Parliament is expected to sit next week for the first reading of the government's proposed amendments regarding the elections.

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