Commonwealth report on 2012 election

As Papua New Guinea heads into the 2017 elections, it is timely to read the report by the Commonwealth Observer Group on the 2012 national elections.  It gives citizens an idea of what to expect in 18 months ­ more massive corruption by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and PNC, and the Electoral Commission. The Group that visited PNG at the time slammed the conduct of the 2012 national elections, saying “serious concerns need to be addressed for the future.”

The report confirms what all Papua New Guineans know – the 2012 election, like others
before it, was rigged. The findings are in keeping with the PNC­sponsored corruption that that is destroying every part of society, not just the electoral process. They show that O’Neill and PNC are rapidly destroying Parliamentary Democracy and instituting a Mugabe­style dictatorship. It is likely, considering the details of the report and the recommendations that have not been acted upon, that the 2017 elections will be rigged by PNC and the Electoral Commission and that the nation will take another big step towards PNC dictatorship.

The Group chairman, Hon Nipake Edward Natapei, MP, of Vanuatu, reported that “significant challenges remain to achieve the efficient and effective management of elections to ensure maximum franchise for citizens, appropriate and consistent electoral practices for the exercise of that franchise, and a strong culture of democracy throughoutthe country.”

In the report, the Group offered a number of recommendations for strengthening the electoral process.
They have not been adopted by the Prime Minister and his PNC Party because they would threaten his ability to corrupt the 2017 election. The damning indications of widespread corruption in the Electoral Commission and by political parties, led by PNC, were based on only one month of investigations and briefings.

Imagine what they would have uncovered had they been able to stay longer and conduct deeper inquiries. Had the Group been able to undertake a longer and more thorough investigation, it would
have discovered how PNC controls polling through improper political influence, illegal and  often fraudulent financial activities, bribery, threats, armed thuggery and standover tactics, falsification of votes, tampering with ballot boxes, infiltration of the Electoral Commission and control of polling place officials and security forces and many other illegal activities.

The main points of the report:

OVERVIEW

▪ The Electoral Commission was unable to carry out its functions properly because the O’Neill Government provided only K180 million of its promised K240 million. Most of the funds that the EC did receive were provided too late.

▪ The principle of one­voter­one vote­one value was undermined because of the failure to adjust electoral boundaries to match population changes. The O’Neill Government has ensured that equal suffrage will not occur in 2017 by deliberately not implementing the Group’s recommendations on electoral boundaries.

▪ Polling was hampered by delays, lack of funds, late distribution of polling material and supplies, late deployment of personnel, late payment of allowances to officials and security forces, failures in election management, logistics, inadequate training and inconsistent processes. These findings highlight the effects of PNC’s tactics to manipulate and control elections at all levels.
 
CORRUPTION OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND CANDIDATES AND THE ELECTORAL
COMMISSION


▪ Political parties, (no doubt led by PNC) failed to declare donations in excess of K500,000 to the Registrar of Political Parties, indicating that there was widespread corruption by parties, including the receipt of donations of cash and in kind by foreign individuals and corporations.

▪ The report does not mention the the Prime Minister’s personal slush fund, the Peter O’Neill Foundation, or how much it illegally gave to PNC, PNC candidates or other candidates.

▪ No mention was made in the section of the report on illegal foreign and corporate donations made to political parties and candidates, of donations to PNC by associates and cronies of the Prime Minister. Nor does it make any mention of foreign companies, in the timber and construction industries in particular, donating to PNC in return for inflated contracts and other favours.

▪ It did make reference to vote­buying, but only in general terms. “Concerns were raised with the group about candidates demonstrating their capacity to ‘provide’ for their constituents and buying support through generous hand­outs of money, food or alcohol in the run up to elections. While such practices have been a long­standing feature of elections in PNG, the Group was informed that in 2012 they were occurring on a scale far greater than ever before.”

▪ The Group witnessed and received numerous reports, particularly in the Highlands, of such bribery and vote buying during the campaign period.
▪ Allegations were also made to the Group that polling officials, including Returning
Officers, were corrupt or in the pay of candidates. Some polling officials acted illegally by filling in forms in public, and “assisting” voters whether or not they had asked for such assistance.

CORRUPTION OF THE ELECTORAL ROLL

▪ The Electoral Roll was updated in a rush and some steps were missed out altogether. The report indicates that in many areas the PNC Coalition ensured that display of the Preliminary Roll and objection processes did not take place or took place to late and for too short a time.

▪ The final number of 4,776,096 names on the Roll was inflated. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the PNC Coalition and the Electoral Commission once again added ghost names.

▪ The Electoral Roll failed to facilitate voting for a large number of citizens. There were problems with the Roll in all provinces and “a worrisome number of voters were turned away in all locations.”

▪ The Group said that the many election irregularities “included non­use of the electoral roll in very many locations in favour of a first­come­first­served queuing process until the ballot papers were exhausted, with no formal verification of voter eligibility.“

▪ “In some polling stations, lack of confidence in the roll was so great that it was  abandoned altogether.” The Group reported that disenfranchisement of voters was “a serious concern.”

▪ “Candidates and community leaders in some places expressed concerns ... that names
may have been deliberately added or omitted from the roll by compromised officials at various levels in order to benefit certain candidates.” The report did not specify which candidates benefitted most, but all indications in the report point to the Prime Minister and PNC.

ELECTION SECURITY

▪ “There were ... several serious incidents of election­related violence during both the polling and counting periods, some of which resulted in the tragic loss of life and destruction of property. At the time of this report, the Group received information that further violence and killing was taking place in the aftermath of the elections in some Highlands locations.”

▪ “The Group was also made aware of attempts to disrupt the election in particular locations, including by hijacking or destroying ballot boxes, or interfering with the count” (these are favourite PNC tactics when it appears that the Prime Minister’s candidates might be losing).“

▪ “Concerns were raised with the Group about some members of the security forces in certain areas reportedly acting in support of or in collusion with particular candidates. Police officers were also seen in some places directly intervening in the voting process, for example by assisting voters in the voting compartment and by inspecting ballot papers before they were placed in the ballot box.”

▪ “Two incidents were reported to the Group of intimidation of domestic observers by candidates or their supporters, one of which involved physical assault. We strongly condemn this practice and emphasise the importance of swift action by police against anyone found to have interfered with the safety or independence of election observers. “

▪ POLLING DAY PROBLEMS

▪ Widespread delays in the scheduled polling dates were a major concern. In virtually all areas, there were also significant delays in the opening time for polling. “Our teams reported common occurrences in many provinces of polling commencing as late as 2.00 pm.”

▪ “Many instances were also observed of polling stations closing earlier than 6.00 pm – sometimes as early as 3.00 pm – including at stations which opened late, and some where only a fraction of registered voters had been crossed off the roll, and even where voters remained waiting to vote.”

▪ “In most cases, this decision appeared to be taken arbitrarily. In some stations, polling  officials or police incorrectly interpreted the requirement for a 6.00 pm closure as meaning that any voters left waiting in the queue at this time should be turned away.”