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Different kind of election? I’m not holding my breath


PORT MORESBY - As the nation gears up for national elections in April, pundits and analysts are beginning to argue about the outcome.

However, the historical trend seems to tell us that the winners and losers have already been decided.

Just think about it, when was the last time Papua New Guinea experienced a truly fair and free election?

It was probably during the formative years after independence. Maybe not even then.

Merely raising the question should rally every right thinking and concerned Papua New Guinean to want to protect and save our democracy.

The Electoral Commission, in its referee’s role, will call for a fair and free election, yet most people will consider this hogwash given its performance in previous elections.

The appointment of a new commissioner has already drawn public criticism, some alleging him of influencing past election results.

Of course, the group that wins and forms the next government will defend its legitimacy on the premise it has the people's mandate.

Yet if the general election is believed to be rigged or its integrity is otherwise questionable, that claim will be up for challenge.

So what might we expect? First, come polling time, it is doubtful people will exercise their democratic rights without intimidation or fear.

When the campaign starts, candidates will use whatever means necessary, even illegal means, to influence the result in their favour.  

More importantly, it is expected the Electoral Commission will be less than neutral and bias free in carrying out its role as referee.

If this is the case, the status quo will remain and the country will carry on as usual.

For the sake of our democracy, however, I would like to think that ‘business as usual’ will not be the case.

Past elections have been tainted by violence, vote rigging, malpractice and gross negligence and these have become synonymous with PNG’s uncontrollable and obese corruption.

The late great Sir Mekere Morauta said that PNG's electoral system is "systemically and systematically" corrupt.

I would argue that the people's vote is no longer a yardstick for the outcome of an election.

There is subsequent wheeling and dealing in which voters haveno role.

Once this becomes widely recognised by our people, it will pose a grave danger to the rule of law and to our nationhood.

If anything, campaigning and polling are just warm-ups to the real battle played out in the counting room.

The counting room box becomes a tinder box in which election results can change hands literally in the blink of an eye.

Here, the people's mandate means nothing. Greed and the hunger for power take centre stage.

People power wafts into thin air and the ugly side of an election shows its true colours.

Such is the fluidity and volatility of our democracy that, at this point, what should be a peaceful process can quickly get out of hand at the cost of lives and property.

This year many candidates will take to the campaign trail hoping to leave their mark on history, while the people will go to the polls hoping to change their misfortune.

VotingIf you are like me, your gut instinct will tell you that the system has already decided who will get into parliament.

The general election is just a formality, and I’m not holding my breath about the coming election.

We cannot simply just sit back, watch and allow this manipulation to continue.

Busa Wenogo is an economist. He won the award for essays and journalism in the 2015 Crocodile Prize


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Busa Jeremiah Wenogo

Dear Ian,

Thanks for your comment

How to solve it remains our greatest challenge because "electoral corruption" as I like to put it, I believe has now entrenched itself in our society that it will probably take a revolution to reset everything. As I alluded to in my post once the majority of the people (led by the educated elite) realise that this is the case (hopefully not too late), I am anticipating that something drastic can be done about it. Organisations such as the Transparency International and some NGOs and individuals are trying their best but if the people take up the fight then real change will begin to emerge.

Ian Poole

Excellent post, Busa, hits the nail right on the head.

By and large, the powerful ones have no commitment to the rights of individual voters, knowing that it will all be decided 'later on', as you attest.

Big-man culture remains supreme, and money rules, sadly enough.

Updating of rolls never gets proper funding in advance. In my view, it should be done soon after each election.

As for money to actually organise the running of the election, same story, a pittance is never enough.

We have a very large problem, how to solve it?

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