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It's all systems go for polling to start on Saturday after the eight weeks of campaigning by the more than 3000 candidates, according to Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato .
He told The National that the final lot of sensitive materials were sent last weekend and the Inter-Departmental Election Committee (IDEC) was visiting the seven Highlands provinces from today to inspect the preparations.
“We are all set to go,” Gamato said from Mt Hagen.
“Polling officially starts on Saturday, however, we will actually start on Monday, June 26. All sensitive materials, including ballot papers, have now been sent out to all provinces. We completed the Highlands region at the weekend.”
He said election officers in provincial headquarters would start unpacking and distributing material to the districts this week.
“The materials will be packed according to electorates and moved from provincial headquarters to the electorates,” he said.
“By Friday, everything should be in place for polling to start.”
Gamato said the committee was touring the Highlands because they were viewed as “hot spots”.
“This is basically to talk to electoral officials, especially the provincial election steering committees as well as election managers, assistant election managers, returning officers and assistant returning officers,” he said.
IDEC chairman and Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari will lead the team comprising Gamato, Police Commissioner Gari Baki, Defence Force Commander Brigadier-General Gilbert Toropo and Correctional Services Commissioner Michael Waipo.
Meanwhile, one of the reasons observers are present during polling and counting is to recommend how future general elections can be better conducted.
Around 800 election observers, including 130 from overseas, will be observing polling and counting from Saturday.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) senior electoral expert Ray Kennedy, who is coordinating the observers, told The National they would be sent to various provinces.
“One of the functions of an observer is just to be present,” Kennedy said.
“Their presence should reduce the likelihood that people are going to be engaging in illegal behaviour.
“Observer presence also serves to increase the confidence of voters in the election, thereby increasing turnout.
“But to me, the most important function is to look at the situation and come up with reasonable recommendations of what can be done to improve future elections.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect election anywhere, anytime. But working together, we can all focus on making future elections better.”
Electoral Commissioner Gamato welcomed the observers.
“The total number of observers is around 800. (Around) 130 are international. Many of those are diplomats currently posted to Port Moresby,” he said.
Kennedy said the main international delegations were from the Commonwealth Observer Group, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
The primary domestic group is Transparency International (PNG).
“We also understand that the Australian National University delegation is a hybrid group,” Kennedy said.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
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