PNG electoral chief rejects 'ghost voters' claim

3:14 pm on 24 July 2017

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commission has rejected a claim that it created nearly 300,000 so-called 'ghost voters' for use in the ongoing national election.

The claim came as a result of statistical analysis presented by former PNG Treasury advisor, Paul Flanagan, comparing PNG's 2017 electoral roll with population estimates by electorate based on the 2011 census.

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato.

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

Mr Flanagan claimed the electoral roll had been inflated by 300,000 in electorates controlled by the ruling People's National Congress.

Under pressure to respond to this and other claims indicating an unfair election, the Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has released a statement.

Mr Gamato said Mr Flanagan's argument was based on a false comparison, and that the Commission's electoral roll had nothing to do with the census.

However, Mr Flanagan said the census was a key measure of the integrity of the electoral roll and had been so for decades in PNG.

While Mr Gamato described the 2017 roll as no worse than the 2012 roll, Mr Flanagan pointed out that the PNC-led government had control of the previous roll also, suggesting the use of hundreds of thousands of ghost voters in 2012 as well.

There have also been questions about the veracity of PNC member James Marape's victory in Tari electorate, the first seat declared in this election.

When the Returning Officer Jack Walara announced Mr Marape's win over two weeks ago, he said the sitting MP secured just over 50 per cent of a total of around 60,000 votes reportedly cast in Tari.

This total number of eligible voters far exceeded the number of 41,804 given on the Electoral Commission's electoral roll summary released in early June.

Papua New Guinea electoral roll summary by local level government area, 4 June 2017.

Papua New Guinea electoral roll summary by local level government area, 4 June 2017. Photo: Supplied

But Mr Gamato said the fact was that Tari had a total of 56,687 eligible voters, and that the number of ballot papers used in the electorate was 61,007.

He said the reasons for the increase included a late adjustment of electoral boundaries which saw the inclusion of 13 extra wards into the electorate, meaning the electoral roll was updated after the early June edition, on the eve of polling.