Election: “Highest level of incompetency!”
China's moves take shape in Torres Strait

PNG's ill-prepared election has a shaky start

The election varies in many ways, including levels of cheating and violence, but one of the most basic forms of variation is the number of candidates standing

Protesters gather in Wabag town as the start of voting is delayed. Poor election organisation has led to protests, some violent, throughout PNG 

| Sights & Sounds, Smells & Surrounds | The Blog of Patrick (Big Pat) Levo
| Additional edited comments from Terence Wood | DevPolicy Blog

WABAG – Democracy came under threat at Rakamanda village outside Wabag town yesterday when four ballot boxes containing voting papers were destroyed by supporters of a candidate.

Supporters of various candidates attacked a vehicle transporting 15 ballot boxes to Wapenamanda Airport to be airlifted to Maramuni government station.

At the same time there was also a protest in the heart of Wabag as scrutineers and locals expressed disatisfaction at delays in the commencement of voting.

These protests were just two of many that broke out in Papua New Guinea this week as voting got underway – or in many cases didn’t, triggering a sometimes violent response.

In Wabag, district returning officer, George Puiyo, said ballot boxes contained voting papers and other materials were destroyed in an attack on a convoy which was halted by a barricade on the Highlands Highway.

“Four ballot boxes were destroyed in the attack by people from Rakamanda village but fortunately no one sustained injuries,” Puiyo said. “However the truck was stoned and badly damaged.”

He did not disclose whether the four destroyed ballot boxes will be replaced but said the remaining 11 boxes have been transported by helicopter to polling sites in the Maramuni area.

Even candidate numbers are hard to come by

TERENCE WOOD | DevPolicy Blog | Edited

CANBERRA - Keeping track of even the basics in Papua New Guinea’s 2022 general election has been hard.

With polling underway, the exact number of candidates is still, it appears, unknown.

Newspapers reported numbers in May and June, but these were wrong.

Finally, late last week what appeared to be a comprehensive count of candidates was released.

Even this wasn’t entirely accurate: it’s based on a list that includes candidates who have withdrawn from competition, as well as others (including one sitting member) who have recently passed away (none under suspicious circumstances).

And it’s probably prone to change –there may still be legal rulings that affect final numbers.

Still, the current list is as good as we’re going to get. Here’s what the numbers have to say so far.

Candidate numbers are up, but not by much. Correcting for the deaths and withdrawals that I know about, 3,619 candidates appear to be contesting the election. The final number could change, but only by a handful.

This is the highest number of candidates to have stood in a general election in PNG. The increase from 2017 is nearly 9%.

That sounds significant, but thanks to the decision to increase the number of seats this year, there are now seven more electorates. The average number of candidates per electorate has increased by only 0.7.

Although the increase in the overall number of candidates is modest, there is a massive variation between electorates.

One of the most startling aspects of electoral competition in PNG is just how much it varies around the country.

It varies in many ways, including levels of cheating and violence, but one of the most basic forms of variation is the number of candidates standing.

Some contests are crowded, others remarkably quiet.

In the busiest electorate – Moresby North-East – 76 candidates are standing. This is a record for PNG.

It’s also a far cry from Bougainville provincial electorate, where only six candidates are standing this year.

Explaining just why some electorates have so many candidates and others so few isn’t easy.

If you’re thinking it’s a tale of crowded urban electorates versus peaceful rural ones, you’re wrong.

Right next to bustling Moresby North-East, is Moresby South, where only eight candidates have thrown their hats into the ring.

It’s also not entirely a story of regional differences. While there are clearly fewer candidates per electorate in the Islands Region, the variation between regions is a lot less than within them.

When it comes to candidate numbers, competition is different in the Islands but less so between other regions.

Nor is it a clear-cut story of size and population. The average number of candidates in the large, populous provincial seats is very slightly less than in the smaller open seats.

Part of the explanation for varying candidate numbers, is that more candidates enter the field when they think their chances of winning are higher.

You can see this in the impact of incumbency on candidate numbers: incumbents have an advantage in elections in PNG – they are more likely to win than anyone else.

But some electorates, either because they’re new or because their sitting member died recently, don’t have incumbents.

This year, on average more candidates are standing in electorates without incumbents: weaker incumbents do usually boost candidate numbers.

For whatever reason, lots of people fancy their chances against the sitting member in Moresby North-East this year, where a record 76 candidates are standing.

Finally, gender. The publicly available data don’t have details on gender, however reported numbers suggest women will comprise about 4.6% of total candidates. If correct, this is a slight fall from 2017 (5.4%).

A lot remains to be seen about 2022 where there are 118 electoral contests each with very different dynamics.


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Bernard Corden

In Tari, given the number of votes exceeds the number of voters, it appears hand sanitiser has found a much more alternative use.

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