PNG – confusion about decision to defer the election

The Speaker of Parliament, Jeffery Nape, has called on the Electoral Commission to set new dates for the election that’s supposed to be held in June, even though the Prime Minister and the Electoral Commissioner now say the elections will go ahead as scheduled.

On Tuesday a crowd variously reported to number 100’s to 10,000 people, including students, union members and church members, gathered in a Port Moresby stadium to voice their anger at last week’s vote by parliament to defer the election by six months.

With protesters shouting “Rausim, rausim”, which means “chase him out”, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill assured the crowd his government would not meddle in the electoral process.

On Thursday 5 April O’Neill and 62 other MPs voted to defer the election by six months.

But after a special cabinet meeting on Monday O’Neill said that vote was not binding on the country’s Electoral Commission.

He said he wanted elections to proceed as normal, but with the issue of writs deferred by a month to update electoral rolls.

“Parliament will not interfere with the electoral commissioner,” he told the crowd, Australian Associated Press reported.

PNG’s electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen says he is seeking legal advice on the constitutionality of the decision made by parliament.

“I will proceed to advise the Governor General Sir Michael Ogio to issue writs for the 2012 elections as scheduled on 27th April,  2012,” he said.

“And I want the people of PNG to know that I have always maintained that the commission is prepared and the 2012 elections will go ahead as planned.”

But Speaker of Parliament, Nape, disagrees and says Mr O’Neill cannot override a decision made by parliament.

To do that he says there would need to be another vote in parliament to rescind the deferral.

“The action taken by the [National Executive Council] and its public servant, the electoral commissioner, is deemed unlawful,” he said.

“I have to advise member of NEC, including the prime minister…to simply come to parliament and rescind the motion.”

Mr Nape says the six-month delay still stands, and as the Electoral Commissioner, Andrew Trawen has failed to have the voter rolls completed on time and therefore must set new election dates.

“I would like for the electoral commissioner to do his duty by setting new dates for the 2012 general election,” he said.


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