PNG election chief urged to follow rules on declarations

3:51 pm on 8 July 2017
Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato.

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Two former Attorney-Generals in Papua New Guinea say the electoral commissioner's decision to declare the winners of the national elections in the capital is wrong by law.

The commissioner, Patilias Gamato, says he will declare winners for all 111 of the country's seats in parliament in Port Moresby.

But Kerenga Kua and Sir Arnold Amet, who are both candidates, say the Organic Law of National Elections specifically rules that each electorate's returning officer is responsible for counting.

This comes as the election's two week-polling period is due to wrap up this weekend.

Vote counting is already underway in some provinces where polling has been completed, and is expected to begin in the remaining electorates in the next few days.

Mr Kua said that given current questions regarding the integrity and independence of the Electoral Commissioner's office in Waigani, his National Party does not encourage "any additional un-prescribed procedures which will simply create more opportunities for fraud, rumours and stress".

"We believe the Provincial Returning Officers will do a better job as they are under the immediate scrutiny of the candidates," said Mr Kua.

"The Electoral Commissioner and his staff in Waigani are not."

Sir Arnold, who is also a former PNG Chief Justice, said Mr Gamato's move to announce winners in the capital would deny the right of constituents to learn of the election result in their own electorate as soon as possible.

He told the Electoral Commissioner that if he didn't rescind the decision, he could expect a flood of multiple legal suits.

"I recommend that he seeks competent legal advice on this and correct it accordingly immediately," said Sir Arnold.

Mr Kua has the lead early in vote counting in his Sinasina Yongomugl electorate in Chimbu province, while counting has not begun yet in Madang's Sumkar seat where Sir Arnold is hoping to return to office after a term outside parliament.