FROM THE HIGHLANDS TO THE COAST and throughout the atolls and islands, Papua New Guinea goes to the polls in one of the most decisive moments in its short history
At stake is the question, “what is the appropriate model of development and who will bring thousands of rural communities out of the stone age into the 21st century?”
Despite various setbacks and hiccups, that have become more pronounced due to the advent of mobile technology and the explosion of social media, all systems seem relatively normal.
Long queues are being witnessed throughout the nation of 7.5 million Melanesians who live a stone’s throw away from northern tip of Australia.
As was the case with previous elections, some voters have been turned away at the polling stations as their names weren’t on the voter’ register.
David Williams, a regular commentator on ite Facebook, noted this anomaly with the voter figures:
“I am intrigued to see that there are 4.8 million PNGians on the electoral rolls for this election (Post Courier, 18 June). According to the 2000 Census, there were 5,190,786 people in PNG, and the average annual population growth rate was 3.2%, which means that the 2012 PNG population could be as high as 7,575,120.
“Now consider for a moment that 47.98% of the population are under the age of 18 years - and there are ineligible to vote - that's a whopping 3,634,901 children, babies and teenagers. It leaves behind a total of 3,940,219 PNGians who, being older than 18 are eligible to vote in these elections.
So where then, assuming every single person over 18 years of age in this country is indeed properly registered to vote, do the the other 859,781 voters on the electoral rolls come from?”
Former trade union leader, Michael Malabag, who is contesting the seat held by Sir Mekere Morauta (retiring), has described day one of polling in Port Moresby as “a bloody shambles”.
Confusion reigned in some parts of the city though senior broadcaster Belinda Kora reported having successfully cast her vote in Port Moresby North East electorate.
Paul Barker from the Institute of National Affairs, reported that Port Moresby was supposed to have one day of polling but there is a possibility of voting to continue tomorrow although there is no official word on the matter.
Meanwhile in the rural areas, the folks in Goilala in the Central Province, have gone full swing into polling with the exception of Tapini government station. Voting in Abau in Central Province is also fully underway.
Voting in Madang has been slow but progressing. Reports from the hundred mountains of Josephstaal indicate a very tense situation. Polling was well and truly underway at Rempi village in the SUMKAR open seat currently held by housing minister Ken Fairweather.
In East Sepik there are reports of ballot boxes being destroyed and smashed in Yangoru and Wosera Districts. Otherwise Police are generally in control of the electoral process.
Sir Michael Somare, the founding father of modern Papua New Guinea is contesting the East Sepik Regional seat, a seat he has held since independence during one of the most colourful political careers anywhere on this planet.
Sir Michael is credited with bringing together 700 indigenous nations and driving into them a sense of nationhood and being united under the flag of a modern state.
These elections for Papua New Guinea’s 8th national parliament mark the end of the independence era as it moves into the post independence parliaments fuelled by the $15 billion dollar gas economy.
A lot is at stake as the country’s elite squabble over power and prestige handed to them by the people’s consent written on a white piece of paper stashed inside a clear plastic ballot box.