PNG Commission sets poll timeline

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Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai has announced that nominations will be accepted from Thursday onwards and counting will be carried out in tandem with polling.

Candidates for the 2022 National General Elections will have until 26 May to nominate, this would ensure a two-week grace period for United Labour Party to elect a new party leader and to reorganise their campaign while also providing other parties sufficient time to prepare.

Additionally, the reshuffling of dates had meant pushing forward the polling period a week earlier to 02 July from 09 July, giving voters an extra week but also meaning that returning officers and assistant returning officers would be working around the clock to ensure polling and counting would be completed on time.

“Increasing the polling period by starting on 02 July, instead of 09 July, would provide additional time to the PNG Electoral Commission (PNGEC) to conduct polling and start counting earlier,” he said.

“More time is also provided to ensure that the scrutiny and count following the polling in each electorate is conducted and that the writ be returned on or before 29 July ,” he said.

The extension would also give the PNGEC more time to complete the creation of new electoral rolls for the seven new electorates.

“I am invoking the authority of the Electoral Commission under section 79(2) on the date of polling to decrease the mandated period between the issuance of the writs and the start of polling from eight to seven weeks due to special circumstances.”

The current polling period runs from 09 July to 22 July, for a total of 14 days which leaves seven days from the end of the polling period to the return of writs on 29 July.

Sinai clarified that the 14 days started when the Governor General, Sir Bob Dadae, signed and issued the election writs last Thursday and will end on 26 May.

“The extra seven-day extension of nomination period was approved by the Sir Bob late Monday,” Sinai said.

He made this announcement following calls by political parties, Members of Parliament and candidates throughout the country for him to state the correct nominations dates.
They said there were massive problems everywhere with candidates unable to nominate and they didn’t know when nomination would start and end.

Constitutional legal eagles have stated that since Sinai announced the nomination dates to be 18 May and not 12 May, it was mandatory that nominations must happen from date of issue of writs for seven days only.

They were warned that all candidates that were nominated after the 19 May and win elections may face court challenges.

Ialibu-Pangia MP Peter O’Neill, and many other candidates and MPs spoken to were also asking for clarification of the new date.

Sinai clarified that after learning of the death of the Deputy Prime Minister and Bulolo MP Sam Basil on Wednesday night, hours before the issue of writs, he invoked some of the powers within the Electoral Commission Act under section 177 to delay the election process for a week.

The announcement comes as there are reports of MPs and candidates already nominating as in the case of Namatanai MP Walter Schnaubelt who nominated on 12 May.

“Sir Bob has approved the writs on 12 May, and to date, I wish to inform the people that the election has started as soon as the writs were issued,” Sinai said.

“We would have accepted the fact to continue to run the elections, unfortunately, our Deputy Prime Minister got into an accident and died.

“Being a deputy PM and also a political party leader of the current coalition government, it was necessary that the political party that is involved in the Government need to be considered.

“This delay does not mean to delay the nominations but an understanding that the election process has started.” he said.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/POST COURIER/PACNEWS