Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Nation-wide Consultation on the Revised Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC)”

Registrar, Dr Alphonse Gelu
By Dr Alphonse Gelu

The Registry of Political Parties in November 2018 received a letter from the Office of the State Solicitor requesting the Registry to conduct a nationwide consultation on the Revised Organic Law before it is given legal clearance to go before the National Executive Council (NEC) and then to Parliament. The main reason given by the State Solicitor is that the Organic Law is a Constitutional Law therefore the people of this country must have their say on any changes that are proposed. Transparency International had also recommended for a wider consultation before the Revised Law should go before NEC and Parliament. The Registry is now responding to the requests made despite that the Registry undertook some of the consultations back in 2014 and 2015. 

A budget for the consultation has been submitted to the Department of Treasury for funding in January, 2019 but the Registry has not received any response or acknowledgement on this request. 

For the benefit of the readers, the OLIPPAC was passed by Parliament back in 2001. A revision to the law was made in 2003 and which has been enforced since then. The main objectives of the OLIPPAC are; 
  • · To maintain and sustain political stability
  • · To promote integrity in the election process
  • · To strengthen political parties in the country
Immediately after its passage, the OLIPPAC managed to maintain and sustain political stability which saw a government staying in office for the entire life of Parliament from 2002 to 2007. The same would occurred from 2007 2012 however the decision of the Supreme Court of 2010 that nullified certain provisions of the OLIPPAC and the eventual staging of the Impasse did not see a government staying in office for the 5 years term.

Parliament of PNG
However form 2012 to 2017, the country was able to maintain political stability through the coalition government headed by the People’s National Congress (PNC). The stability was achieved without the provisions of the OLIPPAC but through the ability of the Prime Minister to hold on to his coalitions partners and maintain the majority in Parliament. 

The second objective is still a work in progress as evident in the manner political parties participate in the elections since 2002 and the related issues that affects the integrity of the election process. 

The third objective is also a work in progress as the Registry since 2013 has implemented programs to strengthen the political parties in the country. 

The primary focus for the article is to discuss the Revised OLIPPAC and the importance of the nationwide consultation as requested by the State Solicitor. 

The work on the Revised OLIPPAC started immediately after 2010 through a process of consultation by the former Registrar and now a Member of the Bench, His Honour Sir Kina Bona. 

From the consultations a brief was prepared and by the end of 2012 a draft Revised OLIPPAC was ready. By March 2013, the first draft was submitted to the NEC and by April 2014, the final draft was approved by the NEC. Since 2014, the Revised OLIPPAC never went before Parliament and the process of passing the law ended when the country went to the elections in 2017. Soon after the 2017 election, the Registry started working on the Revised OLIPPAC again after having a discussion with the Minister for Justice & Attorney General. It was also a priority from the Alotau Accord 2 beside the Bill on the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). 

The O’Neil-Abel Government made a commitment to immediately look into these Laws (Post Courier, August 10, 2017), however to date no progress has been made. 

The Revised OLIPPAC basically kept the majority of the provisions of the OLIPPAC, only about 5% of the provisions are new. The new provisions came about through the experiences of the Registry in implementing and enforcing the OLIPPAC since 2002 as well as filling the gaps that were left open by the decision of the Supreme Court in 2010. 

The proposed changes contained in the Revised OLIPPAC (2017) included the following new provisions; 

The first are the relevant constitutional provisions for amendment, alteration and repealing; 

1. Freedom of Assembly and Association (Amendment of Section 47) 

2. Voting in the Parliament (Amendment of Section 114) 

3. Parliamentary Privileges, etc., (Amendment of Section 115) 

4. Purpose of Subdivision H (Amendment of Section 127). 

5. Repeal and replacement of Section 128. 

And in giving effect to the purpose of those amendments, alteration and repealing, here are some of the specific changes and additional provisions contained in the revised Organic Law; 

1. Section 25 (4) says that a political party must nominate 20% of the total number of candidates nominated by the party as women candidates. 

2. Section 27 (7) says that Political parties must submit their membership listing to the Registry and the Registry will check and monitor the membership every two years. 

3. Section 28 (6) says that party executives who are unsuccessful in a national election and intend to hold a position as a party executive must comply with their party constitution on their reappointment. 

4. Section 28 (7) says that Salaries, allowances and other terms of conditions will be determined by the Registrar in consultation with the Salaries, Conditions and Monitoring Committee. 

5. Section 30 contains the requirement of political party to register. Subsection (4) says that a registered political party must establish provincial branches with full time staffing at least 50% of the 22 provinces. 

6. Section 32 (3) [v] states that a formal agreement to be signed between the declared endorsed members and the party in a recently concluded national election to remain with the party until after the election of the Prime Minister. 

7. Section 33 sets out the registration procedure of a political party. Subsection (3) [b] states the amount of registration fee of a political party to register. The registration fee has increased to 
K30, 000. 

8. Section 33 (3)[e] says that a political party must submit at least five of its main policies that are different from other existing parties with the application to register and also the party must submit its party structure. 

Subsection (3) [g] says that party executives must submit their CVs and police clearance. 

Subsection (3) [h] states the process of registration of a new political party must not take more than three months. 

9. Section 33 (6) state that all political parties to renew their registration two years after the date of their registration with a fee of K15, 000 within 14 days. 

10. Section 37 (3) [e] says that an application will be rejected should a dispute or disagreement arises prior to registration of a political party. 

11. Section 46 contains provisions that deal with grounds for cancellation of registration of a political party. Subsection (1)[m] says that if a political party fails to renew its registration; subsection (1)[n] if a political party fails to resolve a prolonged dispute; and subsection (1)[o] if a political party fails to establish offices in 50% of the 22 provinces will face the consequences of being deregistered or cancelled by the Commission. 

12. Section 56 (5) says that candidates who intend to contest the national elections must meet certain integrity standards to qualify. 

13. Section 59 (2) says that a political party nominated candidates must be registered and be financial members of that political party not less than two years. 

14. Section 63 contains the provisions of invitation to form Government. Under subsection (1) says that on the date of the return of writs in a general election, the Registrar of Political Parties will advise the Governor-General of the registered political party that has endorsed the greatest number of candidates declared elected in an election. The advice of the Registrar of Political Parties will invite that registered political party to form government. 

Subsection (2) says that where two or more registered political parties have endorsed an equal number of candidates declared elected in the elections, the Registrar of Political Parties will advise the Governor-General. The Governor-General, acting with, and in accordance with, the advice of the Registrar of Political Parties will invite the registered political party with the highest primary votes declared in the election to form Government. 

15. Section 67 contains the provisions of funding of political party. Under subsection (2), it says that only a registered political party is eligible to receive a sum of K20, 000.00 for each MP that the registered political party successfully endorsed at the most recent general election or by-election. 

16. Section 67 (2) says that only a registered political party is eligible to receive an amount of K20,000 funding from the Central Fund and such funding shall be made to a political party, for each MP that the registered political party successfully endorse at the most recent election or by-election. Funding of political parties is increased from K10, 000 to K20, 000. 

17. Section 71 (10)[a], [b], [c] and [d] contains the provisions regarding the contributions from citizens through fundraising activities by political parties and candidates must be reported to the Registry 7 days prior to the even, declare the total amount raised to the Registry and must include the amount raised in the annual financial returns. No government entities including State Owned Enterprises must donate to the fundraising activities. 

18. Section 73 (3) says that a MP can leave a party and join another party but funding will still be paid to the original party; under Section 62 (4)[a] and [b] says that if the MP has left and joined another party, the MP must repay money given during elections and repay the funding to the party from CFB. 

19. Section 78 (5) says that a candidates who seeks and accepts contributions from a citizen more than K500,000 and from non-citizens for the purpose of his election would be a fine of K10, 000. 

20. Section 81 contains the provisions of annual financial returns, under subsection (4) it says that a political party that fails to file an annual audited financial return is guilty of an offence and will be fined K10, 000 for the first year of not submitting financial returns and deregistration of the party for not submitting in the second consecutive year. 

21. Section 82 on False and Defective Returns subsection (3) says that a registered political party or a successful candidate who files a defective or false return is guilty and will be fined K10, 000 or will be jailed for a term of 12 months. 

To conclude, the proposed amendments to the Constitution are not controversial including the proposed provisions of the revised OLIPPAC. They would tighten up on some of the areas that the Registry felt are currently weak and not producing the outcomes especially in strengthening political parties in the country. 

The focus of the Revised OLIPPAC is to strengthen political parties unlike the current OLIPPAC that restricted the conscience of the MPs and ruled unconstitutional. This is despite the case for argument on some of the provisions that were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. 

In the nationwide consultation, the people would be presented these changes and their views would be taken on board by the Registry when putting togather the final draft of the Revised OLIPPAC.