“When you want my wife or my daughter, I can give them to you but when you want my power, I will never give it to you. Even if I lose, I will make my way in”
PHILIP KAI MORRE
KUNDIAWA - According to Greek philosopher Aristotle “Man is a political animal who can work towards his highest good only as a member of a society. Man is continuously searching for an ideal society to live in."
Abraham Lincoln, one of America's greatest presidents, referred to democracy as “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Papua New Guinea accepted this concept and adopted it into our Constitution.
These days, however, we are continuously shifting away from the real meaning of democracy.
Part of that shift involves the disruption and destruction of free voting that threatens democratic government.
"When you want my wife or my daughter I can give them to you," a former member of parliament told me. "But when you want my power, I will never give it to you. Even if I lose, I will make my way in."
The neoliberal push is for a political system with elements of greed, selfishness, corruption, abuse of power, control, intimidation, manipulation and disrespect for free and fair elections.
This kind of behaviour erodes good governance and it destroys democracy.
The current political situation in PNG - not only the disrupted election process but the formation of government without an active opposition - is a real threat to the survival of democracy in our country.
Political parties and members of the 11th parliament since independence do not seem to be conscious that a government without a strong opposition is a real threat to democracy. Or if they are conscious, they do not care.
They should also be aware that what they are doing is increasingly providing justification for a future military intervention as has happened in Fiji and many African countries.
What is occurring now really frustrates the people’s confidence in a government should be providing appropriate answers to growing socio-economic problems - including unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment - and the related law and order problems.
I witnessed many cases of electoral laws being violated during each of the five periods of the 2022 election - pre-campaign, campaign, polling, vote counting and the declaration of winners.
This unlawful behaviour undermined a democratic, legitimate and lawful election. In many places in PNG, there was no free and fair voting in 2022.
I have observed people - as individuals or in groups - going from one candidate to another candidate to buy votes. This behaviour is no longer secretive.
Vote buying in the form of cash, pigs and other food is the norm in contemporary PNG politics, especially in the Highlands.
No one is complaining because for candidates to buy votes is now seen as normal.
Despite numerous educational awareness and voter education programs conducted by government agencies, NGOs and churches, PNG hasn’t solved the problems of corruption noted in previous elections.
In fact, this election was much worse. It showed we have no respect for individual voting rights nor for gender-inclusive and disability-inclusive voting.
Individual voting rights have been replaced by authoritarian or dictatorial decisions that control voters and enable multiple voting for one or two selected candidates.
Some candidates were so desperate to be elected, they went to extremes: using deviant youths to force people to vote for them, stealing ballot papers and engaging in multiple voting.
Politicians used youths for their own gain. Drug lords and deviant youths controlled voting places.
The ignorant sold their freedom for just a buck. Later they will regret their actions.
Another emerging norm is that some candidates claim it is their birthright to mark all ballot papers distributed in their ward areas.
If there were two or three candidates from the same ward, they would divide the ballot papers between them, marking second and third preferences to each other.
Corruption in PNG is an epidemic that now affects every part of government, including elections.
Elections in PNG are very expensive and money influences people to vote for the wrong leaders.
Some candidates, especially incumbent MPs, dish out free money to supporters, spending millions of kina from government allocations that are provided with that are meant to build schools and aid posts or to build and maintain roads.
During the campaign, polling and counting periods, businesses and other economic activities were interrupted. Government offices did not operate normally.
Government funds were diverted to election-related activities leading to systematic abuse.
Operational government bank accounts were closed by financial institutions in the name of transparency.
The consequences of this were great: the innocent population seeing hospitals and health centres without vital medicines and schools closed.
All our financial and electoral systems have been corrupted to favour certain politicians.
"Even if I lose, I will make my way in."