Study finds PNG 2017 election largely neither fair or free

4:15 pm on 31 October 2018

Many voters were denied a fair choice in last year's Papua New Guinea general election, according to analysis by the Australian National University.

Polling booth PNG election 2017

Polling booth PNG election 2017 Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

The Guardian reports that ANU's extensive analysis is based on records by hundreds of observers at over 900 polling stations.

It found that from polling to counting, the election was marred by blatant electoral fraud and malpractice, as well as unprecedented violence.

Block voting, coerced collective voting, violence, intimidation and pre-marked ballot papers denied many voters a genuine choice.

Discrepancies in the electoral roll, theft and destruction of ballot boxes, as well as voter bribery, were also widely experienced.

The lead author of the study, Nicole Haley, said that these problems were on a scale that was "qualitatively different to previous elections".

Papua New Guinea national election 2017.

Papua New Guinea national election 2017. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Female voters were particularly disadvantaged, with only 40 percent of women reporting that they voted freely.

A female candidate has told RNZ Pacific that coercion of voters was a central reason why no women were elected to parliament.

The ANU analysis, which is to be fully released early next year, found that few electorates were free of violence and unrest around polling.

Dozens of people were killed in election-related fighting in the Highlands which lingered into this year. Several hundred people were seriously injured or maimed.

Election-related violence in Kundiawa, 30 July 2017.

Election-related violence in Kundiawa, 30 July 2017. Photo: Loop PNG

The analysis is based on reports by Australian and PNG academics, and takes a more critical stance than summary reports from various observer groups which monitored the election.

However, even the Commonwealth Observer Team found that the inaccuracy of the electoral roll resulted in a high percentage of voters being turned away on polling day.

Earlier this year, the prime minister, Peter O'Neill, said PNG needed to improve a lot of its electoral process, including a possible move away from the Limited Preferential Voting system back to 'first past the post'.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs