NOOSA – The Bougainville presidential election has moved into its final stage with the end of counting of the 283 ballot boxes and completion of three days of quality checks.
None of the 25 candidates got even close an absolute majority of 72,213 votes so the elimination of lower placed contenders has begun.
Quality checking involved the thorough examination of voting papers to detect discrepancies during primary counting and ensure that any misplaced ballot papers were correctly distributed.
The elimination process is now allocating preferences with lower placed candidates eliminated until one candidate has a majority or until all preferences have been exhausted.
Election observer John Ariku estimates the winner will need to secure 45,000-50,000 votes through the elimination process.
“My assessment is that only the top six candidates are in this race,” John says.
As elimination began, former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander and present day cocoa farmer, Ishmael Toroama, runner up to John Momis in the last presidential election, was leading the field of 25 candidates.
Like Momis, Toroama was a signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement that ended the disastrous civil war that raged throughout Bougainville in the 1990s.
When the counting of primary votes ended, he had a handy but far from commanding lead of nearly 8,000 votes over Fr Simon Dumarinu.
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Early Saturday morning the last seven candidates of the 25 who stood for election had been eliminated.
Simon Dumarinu had closed the gap on Ishmael Toroama by about 1,000 votes, but Toroama still has a 7,000 vote lead.
The top 10 candidates had retained their relative positions in the count, which remains very tight:
Ishmael Toroama – 28,746
Simon Dumarinu – 21,551
Thomas Raivet – 13,356
Fidelis Semoso -12,700
Peter Tsiamalili – 12,306
Samuel Kauona – 8,318
James Tanis – 8,024
Joe Lera – 7,276
Wesma Piika – 4,467
Paul Nerau – 3,942
In the House of Representatives poll, 36 seats have been declared so far with 23 new candidates elected and 13 either retaining their seats or having regained a seat previously held.
The reelected member for Mahari, John Tabinaman, has been elected for a fourth consecutive term. He is a former vice president, acting president and held several key ministries under the Tanis and Momis regimes.