Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape says his party has the numbers to form a coalition government, after a nationwide poll plagued by violence, allegations of fraud and a large number of absentee voters electoral rolls.
PNG’s general election, held every five years, is one of the toughest in the world partly due to difficult terrain, extreme weather, poor transport infrastructure and linguistic diversity and cultural.
Voting began on July 4 and ended on July 22, but the count was extended until Friday due to special circumstances, including security concerns, attacks on ballot boxes and logistical problems, it said. the electoral commission.
International election observers reported problems ranging from interference in the counting process by tellers and double voting, to a large number of names missing from voter lists.
The PNG Electoral Commissioner’s Office said on Friday – the deadline for an election result under the extension – that it had returned writs for 83 electorates to the Governor-General, although counting is continuing in 35 other electorates .
Mr Marape said a day earlier that his Pangu party was preparing to form a coalition government with 15 smaller parties in parliament next Tuesday, after Pangu won 30 seats, giving him an “overwhelming mandate to form the government”.
Pangu, coalition and independent seats totaled 67, he said.
Peter O’Neill, leader of the largest opposition party, the National People’s Congress, disputed that Pangu could claim a mandate and asked the Supreme Court to delay the return of parliament next Tuesday.
He failed to obtain a court injunction on Friday that sought to delay the return of the writs until all voters had finished counting.
Electoral register problems mean that “millions of our citizens did not vote”, he told reporters on Friday.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group, in an observer report, said the “many challenges” of the election included unexplained delays of up to three days before counting began in some electorates, interference by scrutineers and the lack of verification of voters’ identity documents.
In some cases, up to half the names of eligible voters were not on the voter rolls, a Commonwealth observer group said.
“Investigations are ongoing into some candidates suspected of inciting their supporters to fight with opponents, and arrests will be made,” Police Commissioner David Manning said in a statement on Tuesday.
Disruption in a Southern Highlands province would not stop the vote count, he warned.
He added there was potential for more confrontation as parliament sat and the court heard disputes over the vote as candidates alleged foul play.
Attempts to disrupt the count led to arrests, Manning said in an earlier statement.
A fraud allegation in the Southern Highlands involved witness statements that 12,500 ballot papers were “hijacked during the ballot and stuffed into the ballot boxes” of another electorate, he said.
Amid the vote, Mr Manning said he was sickened by election violence in Enga province, where people were killed and schools, bridges, homes and livestock were destroyed.
Media reported about 50 election-related deaths this year, compared to 204 deaths documented in the 2017 vote.