Bougainville 2015 Election update: Voting near completion as counting gets underway

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Acting Electoral Commissioner to Bougainville Mr George Manu speaks at the media conference held today Wednesday May 20, 2015.

(This is the Press statement from the commissioner).

Welcome and thank you for attending today’s media conference for the 2015 ABG General Election.

Today, I am pleased to report that polling has been completed in 31 of our 33 constituencies.

Polling is yet to be completed in just two of the more than 730 polling places that operated during this election.

  •  There is one polling place in Tasman, in the Atolls, that is yet to poll. Polling has been delayed in that location due to weather and logistical challenges; however, I am advised that it is anticipated that polling will be held there in the next couple of days.
  •   Polling is also underway today at one polling place in Kabaku in North Nasioi and is expected to finish there today.

Throughout this election we have had 218 polling teams operating across all of Bougainville and 5 provinces on mainland PNG.

I would like to thank the dedication and professionalism of all polling teams and the 19 Returning Officers.

They have overcome the many logistical challenges that we face when providing access to voting for the more than 172,000 enrolled Bougainvilleans.

Throughout this election we have achieved a number of things for the first time.

  • This election is the first election in Bougainville led by Bougainvilleans for Bougainvilleans. I cannot over emphasise the significance of this.
  • This election is also the first in Bougainville where we have established regional electoral offices in Arawa and Buin, bringing the administration of the election closer to the people.
  • Another first is that my office implemented out of constituency voting for Bougainvilleans Inside Bougainville. Polling places were established at central locations in Buka, Arawa and Buin to facilitate this. These Special Polling Places, established under our Elections Act, increased the opportunity for voters to exercise their democratic right to vote.
  • In this election we also increased the opportunity for Bougainvilleans Outside Bougainville on mainland PNG to participate in the election by providing voting service in Port Moresby, Lae, Goroka, Madang and Rabaul.
  • And finally, there was the enhanced security features of the ballot papers. This is the first time for PNG, and quite possibly the Pacific, that ballot papers with such advanced security features have been used.

What we have achieved is a great stepping stone towards better, stronger elections in the future. Of course every election is not without its challenges.

My office will continue to investigate all reports and complaints relating to this election as they come to light. This includes reports of people’s names not being found on the Final Electoral Roll and cases of voter or candidate misbehaviour.

As I announced yesterday, in light of credible reports received that some people were seeking to abuse the Special Voting Service for Bougainvilleans Inside Bougainville by attempting to vote more than once and by attempting to remove the indelible ink, polling at the Special Polling Places has been brought to a close ahead of schedule.

I took this step to safeguard the integrity of the election.

My office will be following up on the reports of multiple voting and I will be requesting assistance from the Bougainville Police Service.

I wish to thank the vast majority of Bougainvilleans who worked cooperatively with polling officials and the Bougainville Police Service to make this election, free, safe and fair.

In terms of next steps, OBEC will conduct a Training-of-Trainers for Returning Officers on counting procedures. This training will be held in Buka on Friday 22 May. All Returning Officers will travel in from their regions to attend and they will then return to their regions to train their count centre staff.

Then on Saturday 23 May OBEC will sort the envelopes from the Special Voting Services. Envelopes containing ballot papers cast through Special Voting Services, both for Bougainvilleans Inside Bougainville and Bougainvilleans Outside Bougainville, will be sorted according to their constituency.

The sorting of envelopes will be conducted in the full view of scrutineers and electoral observers. Envelopes will be sorted by region and constituency – there will be no opening of envelopes.

Sorting of envelopes for Bougainvilleans Outside Bougainville will take place in Buka, while sorting of envelopes for Bougainvilleans Inside Bougainville will take place in the three regional count centres at Buka, Arawa and Buin.

OBEC is committed to full transparency and I invite scrutineers and electoral observers to witness the process from beginning to end.

At the end of the SVS sorting, envelopes will be placed in ballot boxes, resealed, and transported with police escort to their respective regional count centres.

In addition to the three regional count centres in Buka, Arawa and Buin, there will be a Presidential count centre in Buka. That is where the counting for the Presidential seat will take place. To allow for a faster presidential count, the first step of the Scrutiny at each of the three regional count centres on Tuesday 26 May will be to identify misplaced ballots that may have been deposited in the wrong ballot box.

I will provide more detailed information on all of this over the coming days.

Thank you again for attending today’s briefing. I will hold my next media briefing at 2pm Bougainville time on Monday 25 May here in the OBEC Media Briefing Room.

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