Posted By Staff Reporter
On 7 February 2019, National Court ordered a by-election for Goroka Open Seat declaring the then sitting Member, Henry Ame's election null and void. The decision was based on the errors and omissions committed by the electoral officials during the 2017 National Election and the Court ordered re-count.
In August 2017, Henry Ame was declared the winner of 2017 General Election for Goroka Open Seat polling 24,192 of which 10,585 were primary votes (1's) and 13,607 preference (2's & 3's) votes.
In part 2 we will discuss each of these candidates chances of beating Bire Kimisopa for the seat.
Ame unseated the former Member Bire Kimisopa who finished a close second on 22,232 votes (11,627 primary & 10,605 preference votes). The final margin between them being just 1,960 votes.
2017 Geneal Election Top 10 Results were as follows:
1. Henry Ame (Ind) 10,585 24,192
2. Bire Kimisopa (NGP) 11,667 22,232
3. Tom Nunue (PNC) 7,944 17,608
4. Aiye Tumbua (PNGFP) 6,556 14,000
5. Elijah Gome (NA) 8,596 12,000
6. Jeffrey Sasuwo (Ind) 6,984 9,563
7. George Mosinakave (SDP) 5,392 6,615
8. Indinuve Sapolalo (URP) 2,263 3,454
9. Dominic Sintex (PYP) 2,728 3,102
10 Asukenato Pupune (STAR) 1,840 2,142
Total candidates 30
Total formal votes 76,955
Total informal votes 1,812
Total registered voters 79,785
Total voter turnout 95%
Following the declaration, Kimisopa challenged the election on the grounds there were irregularities in the counting of votes.
On 28th May 2019, the National Court upheld Kimisopa's election petition directing a re-count and that 775 votes that were mistakenly placed in the Regional boxes and declared informal be counted.
Following the re-count the results were as follows- Henry Ame 24,149 and Kimisopa 22,210 a difference of 1,949.
Kimisopa challenged the results of the re-count on the grounds that the Electoral Commission failed to comply with the Court's orders by including the 775 ballot-papers.
On 7th February 2019, the Court rejected the results of the recount and ordered a by-election.
Ame challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. However, on 3rd March 2020 the Supreme Court upheld an application by Kimisopa to dismiss Ame's Supreme Court Review on the basis of want of prosecution and failing to comply with the Supreme Court directions to file the appeal book on time.
Ame filed a slip rule application arguing the Supreme Court made an error in its judgement. The application is yet to be heard and without a stay (stop) order, nothing prevents the Electoral Commission progressing with the by-election. I don't expect Ame's slip application to be successful and believe the by-election will proceed.
So who will take out the By-election?
Before answering the question lets consider some historical data.
In 2002, Bire Kimisopa won the Goroka Open Seat for the first time polling 6,517 votes under the first past the post voting system. This was after contesting his first election in 1997 finishing in 5th place polling 1,601 votes. A Henry Smith won the 97 election polling just 2,928 votes.
In 2002 Mathias Ijape, former two term Member (1987 & 1992) finished a close second to Kimisopa on 5,978 votes, a difference of just 539 votes.
Kimisopa was the leader of the United Party from 2002 to 2007 and served as a senior Minister in Somare Government as the Minister for Internal Security (Police) 2003–2006 and Minister for Justice (2006–2007).
Given his performance and rise to prominence many expressed the view that he would become the Prime Minister following the next election.
However, unfortunately for Kimisopa his national profile didn't help his re-election. In 2007 he lost his seat to new comer and Pangu candidate, Thomson Harokaqveh.
2007 saw the introduction of the Limited Preferential Voting (LPV) System which changed the game for Kimisopa.
Kimisopa would have actually won back his seat had it been the first past the post voting system. He polled 6,430, primary votes ahead of Harokaqveh who polled 5,101. However after preference votes Harokaqveh won on 13,770.
In 2012 elections Kimisopa won back the seat contesting as an independent candidate. He polled 11,825 votes (5,259 primary 1's and 6,556 2's & 3's).
Runner up was PNG Party candidate, Tom Nunue polling 11,759 a margin of just 66 votes. The then sitting Member Thompson Harokaqveh finished in 5th place.
In 2017, Kimisopa loses the seat again to a new comer Henry Ame by a margin of 1,940 votes. Ame a prominent businessman contested the election as an independent.
In February 2020 PNC candidate, Tom Nunue who finished in 3rd place on 17,608 votes passed away from a prolonged illness.
Following the passing of Nunue and based on the 2017 election results the stats suggest the by-election will most certainly be a two man race between Ame and Kimisopa.
However in a new twist Ame who joined Country Party following his election in 2017 jumped ship to contest the by-election under PNC. A decision that is viewed for financial backing.
Whlie I know Ame as a good man it's my view he has made a calculated mistake running under PNC, a decision that will undoubtly cost him his re-election.
While PNC took out the by-election for Menyamya Open it was anticipated, after Prime Minister James Marape announced Pangu would not field a candidate and Sam Basil's miscalculation in his candidate and unable to run anti- PNC campaign as he successfully did to win the seat in 2017.
PNC's win in Menyamya was the smallest of margins just 468 votes, hardly a landslide win.
Unlike Menyamya a remote electorate 3,700 square km in size (km2), Goroka Open is 10 times smaller, 296 km2, with a population that is more informed about national issues concerning corruption and an economy sinking in debt under PNC.
Ame will have to tackle with the fact PNC will no longer be a member of Government, our Prime Minister will be on the ground campaigning for his Pangu candidate as will many of the other coalition partners, not only campaigning together but sharing preferences between them.
The smart decision for Ame would have been to have contested under Pangu. It's the one thing to defend a seat during a National Election when everyone is busy trying to win back their own seat versus a by-election when an entire Government system and coalition partners make their presence known in an area just 300km2.
I'm informed Prime Minister's Pangu Party will endorse 4th place Aiye Tumbua, William Duma's United Resource Party to endorse 5th place Elijah Gome, Chris Havieta's Country Party will endorse Manu Ijape, son of the former two term Member, late Mathias Ijape. A number of other parties are expected to announce or confirm their candidates in the coming week including the Allegiance Party.
Next : The Power Of Social Media In PNG Politics