Observing the PNG 2012 National Elections
In June and July 2012, CDI staff and Associates participated in a number of international and domestic observation missions to the 2012 PNG national elections, organised by CDI partner organisations:
CDI Associate Dr Orovu Sepoe conducted a series of case studies examining the performance of selected women candidates during the election. The objectives of Dr Sepoe’s study were to compare the electoral experience of women candidates from patrilineal and matrilineal communities in PNG and to consider the interaction between tradition, culture and voter behaviour. Dr Sepoe's research focussed on the performance of selected women candidates in the National Capital District provincial seat and in the open electorates of Moresby North West and Kavieng, in New Ireland. She gathered data for her case studies while participating in an election observation mission funded by AusAID and coordinated by our colleagues at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at the ANU. Click on the link in the table adjacent to access Dr Sepoe's reports.
CDI’s PNG-based Research Officer John Varey was closely involved in managing and reporting on the domestic observation missions conducted by Transparency International (TI) PNG. Mr Varey’s mission was part of a team of trainers and coordinators for the Highlands region. Mr Varey’s report for TI PNG noted that while high levels of security on polling day helped minimise election related violence, grave doubts remain about the integrity of the electoral process. The concerns he cited included: underage voting; block voting by electoral officials and candidate scrutineers; absence of secret voting; partisan behaviour by some electoral officials; double voting; insufficient or excess ballot papers; flaws in the common roll and flaws in the administration of the common roll; and vote buying by candidates. Click on the link in the table adjacent to access Mr Varey's complete report.
CDI Associate Dr Norm Kelly participated in an observation mission coordinated by the East West Center at the University of Hawaii. He observed the conduct in 25 polling stations in New Ireland and Morobe provinces and the counting of votes in Port Moresby for the National Capital District and Central Province. Dr Kelly's main observations were as follows and you can click on the link in the table above to access his complete report:
State of the Electoral Roll
Many potential voters were turned away at polling stations, as they were not on the roll, or their names could not be located on the roll. In two instances, 25 to 43 percent of potential voters were turned away. Rejections were higher in town areas, where there was a greater breakdown of localities (names are listed alphabetically under each locality). Officials only had access to hard copy rolls for their own local polling area.
Queuing or Calling
In some polling stations potential voters queued then provided their name to the polling clerk who checked the roll to locate the voter's name. In locations where there were few clerks this was a slow process leading to lengthy delays. In other polling stations clerks called out the roll (sometimes with the assistance of a village spokesman). This was a quicker but potentially less accurate process.
A number of instances of potentially illegal campaigning activities were observed in New Ireland, including the provision of food and drink by candidates before and during polling as an inducement to vote. In addition, a party official was observed within the polling station (an area supposedly reserved for polling officials) recording names of people who were not found on the roll.
Candidate Attitudes to Electoral Administration
A number of candidates and their supporters in Lae and Port Moresby were very uneasy about the security of ballot boxes and the transparency of counting processes. There was a degree of suspicion about the capacity of electoral officials to act with probity and to withstand pressure from candidates. The burning of a ballot box in Port Moresby by the Returning Officer was cited as an example of such pressure. The extent of the intimidation that officials can face was shown in Lae, where a Returning Officer was attacked, allegedly by supporters of a particular candidate. He was hospitalised as a result of his injuries.
A significant cause of informal voting appears to be confusion between Open and Provincial ballot papers. Voters can cast a valid vote by writing either the name or number of their preferred candidates on their ballot papers. Where voters use candidate numbers in excess of the numbers allocated for an open seat but within the range for the corresponding provincial seat, it is easily identified as an informal vote. But where the numbers fall within the range of both open and provincial candidate numbers it is impossible to tell whether there has been any confusion.
Reports from each of these activities will be considered during post-election assessment processes being conducted by the PNG Electoral Commission and other interested parties.