Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More Election tensions and challenges

There have been rowdy scenes in a Papua New Guinean town after people thought ballot boxes for the general election were being taken away.

The completed ballot papers for the highland province of Hela are being stored in shipping containers in the provincial capital Tari.

Locals say a rumour spread around town early this morning that they were going to be moved to Mt Hagen 150 kilometres away and counted there.

Tari resident Eddie Yuwi says some angry candidates and their supporters responded by firing guns into the air and blocking roads with logs and heavy machinery.

"All the machines were lined up on the road to block off the boxes if any security personnel were about to carry the boxes to Mt Hagen."

Mr Yuwi says the situation has since calmed and the roads have been reopened.
PNG police arrest ballot 'hijackers

Police in Papua New Guinea say they have arrested a gang posing as policemen to hijack ballot boxes during the country's general election.

Police say four men wearing police uniforms hijacked several ballot boxes at Bereina in Central Province about 100 kilometres northwest of the capital, Port Moresby.

Assistant Commissioner Francis Tokura says one of them was armed with a pistol.

In a statement he says police have arrested the men with the help of soldiers from the defence force.

Mr Tokura says he has also received reports of people trying to disrupt polling in Abau, also in Central Province.

He says candidates are behind the attempted disruption and he has appealed to them to stop putting people's lives at risk.

Apart from the two incidents Mr Tokura says polling in the province has been generally quiet.
Voting continues in Port Moresby

In Papua New Guinea where the general election is continuing, there have been complaints of irregularities on the voting registry in Port Moresby.

Polling in the capital began on Tuesday, but was extended into today after delays in organising many of the city's polling stations.

Our correspondent in Port Moresby Liam Fox says the overall situation appears to have improved, but there are still some major issues to overcome.

"A lot of people expressing frustration that their names aren't on the common roll and also confusion and frustration at this new way of conducting polling here whereby you go to a polling booth according to your surname," he said.

There are certain booths for A to B or C to D, things like that and people are confused about where they've gone."

The chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group, Vanuatu's former prime minister, Edward Natapei, says he has been impressed by the peaceful nature of the voting in the capital, after a troubled start at the weekend in parts of the Highlands.

Voting will go on in some parts of PNG until Thursday of next week.
Watershed moment

These polls are seen as a watershed moment after months of political uncertainty in PNG, which is on the brink of a huge resources boom.

There are 4.6 million people registered to vote and 3,428 candidates are vying for just 109 parliamentary seats, with no single political party likely to win enough seats to form government on its own.

There are 4,700 polling stations - 1,700 of which are so remote they are only accessible by air.

PNG's electoral commission has described the vote as the most crucial in PNG's 37 years since independence, with a huge $US15 million liquefied natural gas project set to transform the country's economy.

The project is due for completion in 2014 and stands to end PNG's reliance on foreign aid, potentially doubling the nation's GDP.

But the country's also been gripped by a power struggle between veteran leader Sir Michael Somare and would-be successor Peter O'Neill, sparking a prolonged political impasse.

Mr O'Neill was installed as prime minister while Sir Michael was ill in Singapore last year, but the Supreme Court ruled in December that the man known as the "Grand Chief" had been wrongly ousted.

The decision triggered a crisis which, at its height, saw the nation with two prime ministers, two governors-general and two police chiefs.


ABC