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.