19 Jul 2022

Election in danger in some areas of PNG after spate of violence

9:04 am on 19 July 2022

Papua New Guinea police and electoral authorities are on the verge of declaring failed elections in some part of the country where violence has all but halted the electoral process.

In one electorate in Enga Province on Friday a school and several other buildings and properties were torched by angry voters after the theft of ballot boxes.

Voting in the PNG election

Voting in the PNG election Photo: Raguel Kepas

RNZ Pacific's correspondent in PNG Scott Waide said the violent extremes reflect a wider public frustration in a poorly planned and managed election.

"It started out with instances where ballot boxes were hijacked and people tried to take ballot boxes away and have their own votes put in. And much of that was [taking place] in Enga Province and also Tari in Hela Province.

"People have expressed their frustrations by burning a school and other buildings, as well as vehicles and destroying ballot boxes. In Porgera the violence happened after polling teams were withdrawn so this was clan rivalry that came into play. There are also reports of company vehicles being burnt."

Fifty election ballot boxes were stolen in Lagiap last week.

Enga province was officially designated a 'fighting zone' after security personnel there were set upon by armed gunmen.

It was estimated that 10 people died in the fighting.

Waide said the prime minister James Marape has come out and condemned the violence but people have called him out for instances of double voting and irregularities and violence.

"We have had a decade to fix it, but there's been no political will to rein in the Electoral Commission and just instruct them to just go out and adequately fund the problems. For example, the Census hasn't been done problem the electoral rolls are still faulty," said Waide.

"And all this was flagged in the 2012 elections, it was again raised in the 2017 elections, and even in the by-elections that have taken place in Port Moresby. It is something that we've known to be wrong but there's absolutely no political will to get this fixed.

"For some electorates it works to the advantage of the politician to get elected in that manner. So it's been very frustrating for people who want to follow the law, who want to have a fair and safe election. And to see this come about is very frustrating. It's a reflection of problems that have been around for some time and left unaddressed."

Waide said that in areas such as Lae the elections have gone ahead with no serious irregularities or violence.