Pacific News Minute: Report Finds Democracy was “Hijacked” in 2017 PNG Election

Oct 31, 2018

Flag of Papua New Guinea
Credit Nightstallion / Wikimedia Commons

A scathing analysis of this year’s general elections in Papua New Guinea found widespread fraud, intimidation and violence. 204 people died, and hundreds more were seriously injured or maimed.

“The 2017 elections were marred by widespread fraud and malpractice and extensive vote rigging.”

That’s the conclusion of Nicole Haley, an associate professor at the Australian National University and lead author of a report to be issued next year. According to The Guardian Australia, it’s based on records collected by 258 monitors, and the scale of the problems they found is breath taking.

Many voters found their names missing from the registration rolls, ballot boxes were stolen and destroyed, voters were coerced, observers found pre-marked ballot papers, and the count was manipulated. Haley’s team of academics from Australia and PNG also report that voters were bribed on a scale that was “qualitatively different to previous elections.”

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill
Credit foreignminister.gov.au

Haley told a gathering of Pacific scholars in Canberra that women fared worst. In 2012, she photographed women voting in a relaxed environment. In that same area in 2017, the polling station was occupied by men; women and children looked on from behind a spiked fence, and when the women objected that their ballots were being cast for them by other people, security forces drove vehicles into the crowd at high speed. One female candidate told RNZ Pacific that voter coercion was a central reason that no women were elected to parliament.

As irregularities mounted during the election, opposition parties accused Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. The ANU study finds plenty of problems, but, at least according to The Guardian account, does not allege that they were orchestrated by the government.