IN its first published comment on the troubled Papua New Guinean elections, the Commonwealth Observer Group has issued an interim statement that calls for an urgent review of the electoral roll.
The group’s chairman, Sir Anand Satyanand, said it was critical that expertise and funding for creating a credible roll be provided in a timely manner before the next election and said that the PNG government had ignored previous observer group reports addressing the same issue.
"The people of Papua New Guinea deserve better and eligible voters must be allowed to exercise their democratic right and participate in their national elections," said Sir Anand.
Radio New Zealand International reports that the observer group also said vote-buying was also a matter of concern.
The group noted a number of reported incidents of alleged vote buying, including "through using state resources and provincial and district development funds made available to incumbents".
"These funds were alleged to have been used to buy voters' support or for projects to induce voters," said Sir Anand.
He said the observers were told ‘money politics’ had significantly influenced the electoral process and may have led to an uneven playing field for the parties and candidates in the 2017 elections.
Sir Anand also reflected on lack of expertise among electoral officials.
"The group is of the view that an adequate training programme is required, and in advance of the next election, so that polling officials will become more efficient in undertaking their duties, and that outlined procedures are adhered to during the election period,” he said.
The observer team said most polling stations opened late and some were given fewer ballot papers than the expected number of voters, Radio New Zealand International reported.
Furthermore, "adherence to the secrecy of the ballot was clearly not consistent throughout the different provinces ".
The results, Sir Anand said, "should reflect the wishes of the people who participated in the 2017 national elections."
The observer group’s final report will be presented before it departs PNG on Friday.