Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marab said his party has enough numbers to form a coalition government, after a national election plagued by violence, allegations of fraud and the loss of large numbers of voters from electoral rolls.
Papua New Guinea’s general elections, which are held every five years, are among the most challenging in the world, due in part to the difficult terrain, harsh weather, poor transport infrastructure, and linguistic and cultural diversity.
The electoral commission said voting began on July 4 and ended on July 22, but the count was extended until Friday due to special circumstances including security issues, attacks on ballot boxes and logistical challenges.
International election observers have reported problems ranging from auditor interference with the counting process and double voting to large numbers of names missing from electoral rolls.
The Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner’s Office said Friday – the deadline for the election result under the extension – it has returned orders for 83 voters to the governor-general, although the count continues for another 35.
Mr Marab had said the day before that his Bangu party was preparing to form a coalition government of 15 small parties in parliament next Tuesday, after Bangu won 30 seats, giving him an “overwhelming mandate to form a government”.
He said Bangu, the coalition and the independents totaled 67 seats.
Peter O’Neill, leader of the opposition’s largest opposition National People’s Congress Party, doubted that Bangu could claim a mandate and applied to the Supreme Court to delay the return of Parliament next Tuesday.
He failed to win an injunction Friday that sought to delay returning injunctions until all voters had finished counting.
He told reporters on Friday that electoral list problems meant that “millions of our people did not vote.”
The Melanesian group Spearhead, in a report for observers, said the election’s “many challenges” included unexplained delays of up to three days before counting began in some precincts, interference by auditors, and failure to verify voter identity documents.
In some cases, up to half of the names of eligible voters were not on the electoral rolls, the Commonwealth Observer Group said.
“There are ongoing investigations into some candidates who are believed to be inciting their supporters to fight with opponents and they will be arrested,” Police Commissioner David Manning said in a statement on Tuesday.
He warned that unrest in Southern Highlands County would not stop the vote count.
He added that there is a possibility of more confrontation with parliament convening and the court is looking into differences over the vote as the candidates alleged fraud.
In an earlier statement, Manning said attempts to disrupt the count had led to arrests.
He said that one of the allegations of fraud in the Southern Highlands included witness statements that 12,500 ballot papers were “hijacked during polling and stuffed into ballot boxes” from different voters.
Amid the voting, Mr Manning said he was tired of electoral violence in Inga County, where people have been killed and schools, bridges, homes and livestock destroyed.
Media reported about 50 election-related deaths this year, down from the 204 deaths documented in the 2017 vote.