Electoral roll problems mar Port Moresby Northwest by-election

9:23 pm on 8 June 2021

Allegations of electoral fraud have marred an important by-election in Papua New Guinea's capital.

Papua New Guinea national election 2017.

Voters in PNG elections are required to mark a finger with indelible ink. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The Port Moresby Northwest seat was vacated six months ago when the former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta died.

Polling for the by-election, for which 42 candidates contested, took place on Friday.

However problems have emerged with the electoral roll, the version used in PNG's general elections in 2017.

As with those polls, many eligible voters turned up to polling stations to find their names missing from the roll, or that someone else already voted using their name.

Ghost names still exist on the roll, including names of people who are dead.

The by-election is seen as a test of public sentiment towards the James Marape-led government, a year out from the next elections.

It's also a test of the Electoral Commission's preparedness for the five-yearly polls.

The vote count for the by-election commenced today at Moresby's Sir John Guise Stadium.

According to the Electoral Commission, 190 officials will be involved in the counting process which is expected to take place over three weeks.

Because PNG uses a limited preferential voting system, the count is often a lengthy process, especially when no candidate secures a majority among voters' first preferences.

Elimination counts will have 40 counting officials who will progressively sort and distribute preference votes for the 42 candidates until a candidate passes the majority mark.

Meanwhile, NBC reports that allegations of foul play in the by-election have surfaced and a number candidates are putting together a petition to present to the Electoral Commission, which may have implications on the counting.