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Papua New Guinea

Alleged murderer runs for parliament as voting starts

A Papua New Guinean election candidate has been charged with murder after he allegedly shot an opposition campaigner, but shockingly he will be allowed to stand in the general elections.

Police in PNG have confirmed Milfred Wangatau who is a candidate in the Wabag Open seat in the Enga province has been charged and has appeared in court.

He was released on an AU$2,500 bail and surrendered his firearm to the court. It is surprising that the firearm was not taken in the first place as this was allegedly the murder weapon.

Supporters during an election campaign. Police in PNG have confirmed Milfred Wangatau who is a candidate in the Wabag Open seat in the Enga province has been charged and has appeared in court. Picture: Milfred Wangatau 2022 Facebook

The incident took place last Sunday when Wangatau’s supporters clashed with supporters of PNG’s Fisheries Minister Dr Lino Tom in Wabag.

According to PNG police, Dr Tom’s supporters were returning after watching the State of Origin game and were noisy.

The supporters were allegedly chanting campaign slogans when they neared Wangatau’s house. There was a confrontation between the two different factions leading to a fight. The first fight led to stones being thrown and eventually guns were used.

A senior police official was at the scene and tried to get people to calm down. He too was shot at but escaped with only a stone hitting him on the chest.

PNG election candidate Milfred Wangatau (standing right) at one of his campaigns. Police in PNG have confirmed he has been charged and has appeared in court.Picture: Milfred Wangatau 2022 Facebook

According to PNG laws, a charge is not suffice to stop a candidate from contesting elections – a person has to be convicted.

From July 2, PNG will officially start the process of voting. People will be casting votes but as pointed out by election experts more violence can be expected.

So far 30 people have died in this year’s election. In 2017, more than 200 were killed as a result of election violence. Police and defence forces in PNG are outnumbered – civilians have more firearms than security forces.

The focus for the security forces remain polling stations and safety of ballot boxes. In most cases police do not intervene until after the incident.

In this year’s election in PNG there are 3,625 candidates, of this 3,458 are men and 167 women.

There will be only 118 candidates declared winners. Competition remains tough and some candidates are willing to use any methods to get into the house.

Police in PNG have confirmed Milfred Wangatau (standing right) who is a candidate in the Wabag Open seat in the Enga province has been charged and has appeared in court. Picture: Milfred Wangatau 2022 Facebook

An observer group of the Commonwealth and one from the Melanesian Spearhead Group will be observing the elections.

PNG vote starts despite violence, bribes and deaths – 1 July 2022

In less than a week, the largest nation in the Pacific will start polling in what is believed to be biggest voting exercise in the region.

Elections in Papua New Guinea have always been about more than putting a tick on a piece of paper. Violence associated with the elections in 2017 left a body count of more than 200.

In 2022, the number of deaths due to elections have just surpassed 30.

This week, a member of parliament fired shots from his side arm to escape an angry mob.

Papua New Guinea Police confirmed that Peter Isoaimo was travelling with his convoy on Saturday night when he was attacked by angry villagers in the Central Province.

Mr Isoaimo fired shots from the gun he was carrying to escape to safety.

This is the third incident this year when a member of parliament was attacked.

Members of the Special Services Division ready for deployment for security operations for the 2022 National General Elections. – Picture: Royal PNG Constabulary

According to a report by PNG’s National Research Institute, there are several reasons why this is happening.

The report focuses on the 2017 elections and explains why there were such irregularities, and tries to explain the reason behind the violence.

The report showed that money was used to influence votes and violent actions. According to the report people were paid to vote for a particular candidate.

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The report showed that some candidates bought votes by people to pay compensation, paying the bride price and funeral feasts.

Another major irregularity was communal voting or block voting where a number of people were selected from a community to vote for a particular candidate on behalf of the others.

Violence was used to compel people to vote for a particular candidate, with some supporters of a candidate using guns to threaten supporters of rival candidates and even organise attacks on candidates.

National General Election Security Operation launch in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands Province. Picture: Royal PNG Constabulary

While these things were identified by the report, an analysis of the 2022 practices so far suggest that PNG has done nothing concrete to ensure that irregularities which had marred the 2017 elections were dealt with.

The report recommends tougher penalties on voters and candidates involved in vote-buying.

It goes on to say that there was a need to create more awareness on the importance of the general elections, voting and the impact of vote-buying on service delivery.

The report recommended that all votes cast through communal or block voting should be nullified.

It also called for tougher penalties on candidates and their supporters who use violence and force to intimidate voters.

Voting in PNG starts on July 2 and runs for a week.

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