BY MICHAEL ARNOLD/Post Courier
More than half of leaders in the Highlands were elected through bribery in the 2017 National Election, international corruption watchdog, Transparency International PNG says.
The TIPNG observation report of the election, which was launched yesterday, showed that electorates within the Highlands region boasted the highest prevalence of bribery and intimidation.
About 54.4 percent of voters claimed that they had experienced evidence of bribery or intimidation of voters during polling in June and July.
The region with the second highest prevalence of bribery was the New Guinea Islands, which recorded a 20.4 percent prevalence of bribery and intimidation.
Despite these appalling statistics, PNG Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato, said in response the report attested to the success of the 2017 National Election.
Mr Gamato attributed the success to the fact that elections in all 111 electorates had achieved an outcome by the end of the process.
He said he had promised not to fail any election in the leadup to the 2017 National Election and was able to deliver on that promise.
TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens, however, highlighted that resulting outcomes alone could not determine the success of the election. He said the readily apparent abuses of the election process challenged the credibility and the legitimacy of the exercise.
“That has tended to be the response of many people over quite a long time now. To say, well we’ve got an outcome and the outcome is that we have a government. Yes, that’s been said in 2002, 2007, 2012, 2015 and 2017. However, the reports from all these elections have shown that there are major flaws. What we want to hear is that people are paying attention to those flaws and realising that those flaws do have implications on the legitimacy of the government of the day; the legitimacy of the position being awarded to people,” Mr Stephens said.
“If seven ballot boxes can be filled in an army barracks with videos taken of the illegal behaviour and we are later presented with a member for that particular electorate, as a legitimate member; then of course people have to ask questions,” he said.
Ultimately, both Mr Stephens and Mr Gamato agreed that there have been many recurring concerns in successive elections. Both agreed that all responsible stakeholder agencies needed to take ownership of the failures in this election and work together to refine the process.