After chaotic weeks of voting in Papua New Guinea, counting the ballots has proceeded slowly and the deadline to return results has been extended to Friday. Observers from the Pacific Islands Forum found alarmingly large numbers of names missing from electoral rolls and there are allegations of hundreds of thousands of ghost voters …we have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
While many ballots remain to be counted this week, Johnny Blades, the correspondent of Radio New Zealand International, noted that in PNG, the counting never really stops, with dozens of petitions likely to spend years in the country’s court of disputed returns.
But some trends seem clear. There is good news and bad news for incumbent Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. His People’s National Congress will probably be the largest single party in parliament again, but, with fewer seats than it won five years ago. And O’Neill is reported busy cobbling together a coalition from PNG’s dizzying array of small parties and independents. If he is able to command a majority, many will argue that he did not win it fairly.
The opposition is also trying to build a broad front to be called the Alliance, which includes three big parties, and nine smaller ones. It is not yet clear who would emerge as Prime Minister if the opposition prevails, or what its policies might be. So far the Alliance is united on just one issue - getting rid of Prime Minister O’Neill.
According to Correspondent Blades, the depth of that passion can be measured by the tacit endorsement of Sir Michael Somare, regarded as the father of Papuan Independence, for Sam Basil of the Pangu Pati. Just a few years ago, Sir Michael stormed across the floor of Parliament threatening to kill Basil. Another venerable leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, came out of retirement to oppose O’Neill or, as he put it, to kill the octopus.