16 Dec 2019

Commonwealth observers praise Bougainville referendum

4:27 pm on 16 December 2019

The Bougainville independence referendum was credible, transparent and inclusive, according to the Commonwealth Observer Group.

Vote count by referendum officials.

Vote count by referendum officials. Photo: Bougainville Referendum Commission

A 97.7 percent majority voted for independence, although to come into effect, the result must be ratified by Papua New Guinea's national parliament.

Chair of the Commonwealth group and former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, has issued a preliminary statement on the referendum process.

Mr Tong praised the overall conduct of the referendum, and the high voter turnout at 85 percent.

There were several encouraging features of the referendum, including the roughly equal number of women and men on the roll, and 25 percent of those enrolled being first-time voters.

Mr Tong also noted new innovations in terms of PNG electoral standards, covering postal and provisional voting, and display of the preliminary Referendum Roll for public scrutiny and objections.

He also cited the referendum's enrolment of Bougainvilleans in every other province of PNG and provisions of out-of-country voting (in Australia and Solomon Islands), and special voting at hospitals and for people with disabilities.

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