The three-week voting process in Papua New Guinea has officially ended, as a Commonwealth team observing the election has expressed concerns about the process.
Ballot counting is already underway in many electorates. The Pacific nation is choosing 118 members of National Parliament from 3,635 candidates – of which only 167 are women (4.6 per cent).
As Papua New Guinea follows the limited preferential voting system, the counting takes place in two phases. In the first phase, the officials sort and count the votes from each ballot box for each constituency/electorate according to the voter’s indicated first preference.
After the counting of all ballot boxes, officials will determine whether a candidate received an absolute majority of the votes.
If no candidate receives an absolute majority, the counting process will proceed to the second phase, known as the distribution of preference. At this stage, the counting officials will remove ballot papers belonging to the candidate who received the lowest number of votes and distribute those votes to the remaining candidates based on the next preference marked on each ballot paper.
This exclusion process continues until a candidate receives an absolute majority before results are announced by 29 July according to provisions prescribed by the law.
As counting gets underway, the Commonwealth Observer Group has released a statement to report that as many as half of those eligible to vote were not on the voter register.
“There was widespread public dissatisfaction with the accuracy of the common roll (voter register). We are concerned that this could have disenfranchised high numbers of eligible voters”, said Chairperson of the Group, former President of Nauru, Baron Waqa.
“All relevant stakeholders should collaborate in undertaking an urgent review of the 2022 election.”
Despite latest concerns and delays in delivering the election, the Group commended the Electoral Commission, polling staff, political parties, candidates, scrutineers, security personnel and others for their respective roles.
The interim statement also acknowledged the challenges faced by the Electoral Commission in organising the election, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, as observers, it is our responsibility to identify challenges to the inclusiveness, credibility, and transparency of this election”, added Baron Waqa.
“We do this with the aim of supporting and strengthening the electoral process in Papua New Guinea.”
The Group’s final report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General and subsequently made available to the Government of Papua New Guinea, political parties, the Electoral Commission, and the public.