Sunday, April 7, 2019

ANU Launches 2017 Observation Election Report

By Solomon Puana
The ANU Observation Report on the 2017 Papua New Guinea General Elections was officially launched on the 26th March 2019, in the New Lecture Theatre at University of Papua New Guinea. The Registrar, Dr. Alphonse Gelu and three of his staff namely Ms. Madeline Saga, Mr. William Garena and Mr. Solomon Puana attended the launching of the ANU observation report.

The Registrar was part of the panel discussions with Dr. Nicole Haley (who is ANU’s Team Leader through the Department of Pacific Affairs), Dr. Joseph Ketan and Ms. Ariana Kassman from Transparency International (TI) PNG to provide comments in responding to the key findings presented by Dr. Haley. The key findings highlighted in the presentation gave an indication that the recent 2017 National General Elections was a failed election due to the fact that the entire electoral process from the voter registration to polling and to counting was compromised by a widespread of electoral fraud, irregularities and election related violence.  

However, the presentation also highlighted recommendations that need to be taken on board to address the issues and problems faced during the elections and this included:

·   A need for continued robust observation of forthcoming elections so that it helps to establish a strong culture of citizen accountability;

·   Given the levels of distrust that now prevail, key electoral personnel must be recruited on the basis of merit, appointed earlier in the election cycle, properly trained and supported, and held accountable for their actions;

·    Local efforts adopted to enhance trust in electoral processes should not be discouraged, and should possibly be adopted more widely, for example by having scrutineers or candidates sign the outside of ballot boxes before polling teams are inserted;

·   Development of a brand new electoral roll is again warranted;

·  Establishment and maintenance of a new electoral roll would be greatly facilitated by the immediate establishment of a permanent roving enrolment team within the PNGEC;

·   In order to provide the integrity of the electoral roll, all citizens must be provided with genuine opportunity to actively participate in the voter registration, verification and roll cleansing exercises when they occur;

·   Inequalities arising from the presence electoral boundaries need to be addressed to ensure equal representation for all citizens;

·   Greater effort is required to safeguard the franchises of urban settlers;

·   The PNGEC needs to ensure greater consistency and discernment in relation to wards with large enrolments and in relation to the number of voters to be processed in a single day at any one polling station;

·  One-day polling as presently employed should be abandoned due to its unworkability or strengthened through the establishment of more polling teams and polling stations;

·   Electoral and civic awareness, and voter education involving civil society, needs to be prioritised and funded throughout the election cycle to ensure widespread coverage;

·  All public awareness activities should cease prior to the issue of writs, in order to prevent manipulation and co-option by candidates;

·  Training continues to be important and needs to be given priority in the lead up to the 2022 elections;

·   Electoral officials and security personnel deployed to remote districts need reliable and effective means of communication;

·   The role, responsibilities and remit of PECs vis-à-vis those of key electoral officials;

·   The role of the security forces in election needs to be clearly established through ongoing training;

·   Funding for the security operations must be released in a timely manner;

·   The timing and manner in which security personnel are deployed requires significant reflection in the wake of the 2017 elections;

·   Greater effort should be made to prosecute cases involving election offences such as treating and bribery, and those involving other criminal wrongdoing, during the election period;

·  The role and mandate of the Elections Advisory Committee should be clarified, and members provided with clear guidance on the circumstances under which elections might be failed;

·   The PNGEC is encouraged to adopt formal accreditation procedures for scrutineers to minimise the risk of unnecessary delays in counting rooms;

·   A dedicated, through and comprehensive count-training package should be provided to counting officials, in the event that LPV is retained for the 2022 elections;

·  The power to declare elections should be removed from ROs and vested in the Electoral Commissioner alone. Declarations should only be made after the full results have been supplied and verified at PNGEC headquarters in Port Moresby;

·   Greater participation on the part of women in PNG’s political processes needs to be encouraged;

·  Continue establishing separate polling stations in urban areas for people with disabilities; and especially procedures to ensure that they are given priority at all other polling booths.

The Registry also launched its 2017 Election Observation Report in 2018 and is available on our website for download. ( Hardcopies can be obtained from the office for a reasonable fee at our office.

Electoral Law Review update

By William Garena

The various issues encountered during the 2017 National Elections prompted the Government to address these concerns by directing the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) as the lead state agency together with other key state agencies, to inquire into the workings of the Organic Law on National and Local-level Government Elections and related laws and systems...... The IPPCC is a key partner with the CLRC and forms part of the External Secretariat who were tasked through a Constitutional Directive to undertake the review of the Organic Law on Elections and related electoral laws and systems. The work of the Review commenced with its official launching on 12th June 2018 in Port Moresby by the Prime Minister, Honorable Peter O’Neil.

The review is guided by thirteen (13) Terms of References (ToR) which forms the basis of enquiry through a nation-wide consultation. The 13 ToRs include; The Electoral System (ToR 1), The Voting System (ToR 2), The Electoral Boundaries (ToR 3), Women and Special Interest Representation in Parliament (ToR 4), Nomination Fees (ToR 5), Eligibility for Nomination (ToR 6), Election Petitions Filing Fees and Periods of Filing (Tor 7), Voter Identification System (ToR 8), Local-level Government Elections (ToR 9), Electoral Offences (ToR 10), The Powers, Functions and Composition of Electoral Commissioners (ToR 11), Decentralization of Election Responsibilities (ToR 12) and Any other things you wish to say regarding Elections and Election Laws (ToR 13).

All provinces under NGI region, Momase region, parts of Highlands region (Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Chimbu and Jiwaka), Central and Gulf provinces were visited. The remaining provinces for Southern region and Highlands region will complete the last phase of the nation-wide consultations in the last week of November 2018. Over 23 written submissions were received while more than 2000 questionnaires were collected from tertiary institutions, secondary schools and participants during the consultations.

The level of participation was good in all four Highlands provinces. For the NGI provinces the level of participation was generally good as well. However in Morobe province the level of participation was very disappointing due to poor turnout from the public, political leaders and provincial administration officials. The level of participation in Central and Gulf provinces was also good.

In terms of the general reactions towards the consultations, the people in the provinces were generally happy to give their views. They were quite happy to be given the opportunity to have their say however, people expressed concerns that if the Government was serious about the review, the recommendations of the report must be implemented before 2022 National elections.

A good number of views were expressed by participants during the consultations throughout the provincial visits in which some participants were very animated, while others expressed disappointment and frustration over the general conduct of the elections. Below are highlights of some dominant views captured as per the 13 ToRs during the consultations: Most people spoke in favour of the establishment of the biometric voter registration and the usage of the National Identification system to effectively authenticate the electoral roll to improve roll management and voter registration:

In terms of the voting system, LPV to continue for another two or three elections to allow the system to mature before changes can be made. Others wanted First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) because it is simple and easy to use as it gives only one leader.  
The period of polling would depend very much on the topography and accessibility of polling location and venue. Urban areas should be allocated one day of polling while geographically challenged areas should consist of 7 days of polling. If electronic system of voting is to be used, then the period of polling and counting should be reduced to 2 – 3 days. 
The issue of electoral boundaries attracted a lot of attention with many people arguing for electorates to be split based on cultural and linguistic grounds. Electoral boundaries to be divided on the basis of access to goods and services delivery, land and sea area, and population size. 
Generally most views raised favored more women in parliament, but the only issue was how they would get into parliament. Some speakers wanted women to be elected through reserved seats, whilst others wanted women to be voted through the formal election process. 
There has to be a stringent criteria for candidates to be eligible to contest the elections which should be based on medical grounds; age and experience where the minimum age to contest the elections should be between 30 and 35 years of age; have at least five years of work experience in the public service; and a candidate’s education qualification should be tertiary level preferably a degree certificate.
Support was given for an effective voter identification system to address and reduce electoral fraud such as double voting and underage voting by using driver’s licenses, NID cards, and passports during polling. 
LLG elections to be conducted before the National Elections to allow the electoral roll to be used as a roll cleansing exercise during the LLG elections to improve roll accuracy before using it in the National elections. 
 There should be 4 Regional Electoral Commissioners and one Chief Electoral Commissioner whilst others wanted two Electoral Commissioners to allow for a balance and avoid bias in terms of decision making during the elections.
The responsibility of running the LLG elections and electoral roll update must be given to the provincial administration with adequate funding support and electoral training from PNGEC and the National Government. 
Make it compulsory for all candidates to be party endorsed in order to make independent candidates obsolete, allowing IPPCC to take responsibility in vetting and scrutinizing all party endorsed candidates before eligibility is granted to contest the elections, to achieve accountability and strengthen political parties as important political institutions. (ToR 13). 
Speakers wanted a Bi-cameral House to allow for Bills to be properly scrutinized and to strengthen the legislative process to achieve effective oversight in parliament (ToR 13).   
Speakers wanted the Prime Minister to serve for only two terms and be elected directly by the people. Also the PM’s seat should be reserved for indigenous Papua New Guineans (ToR 13).
Indigenous peoples only of an electorate should be allowed to contest the elections as opposed to non-indigenous people from other provinces to ensure effective representation on the floor of parliament (ToR 13)

A preliminary report was submitted to Government to inform them about the expenditure of the Review work and brief findings after a month’s period of consultations. The final report of the Review work is expected to be submitted to Government in the second quarter of 2019.