Friday, September 21, 2012

83 MPs before court

Source: Post Courier, Septemebr 21, 2012
By TODAGIA KELOLA

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill, Opposition Leader Belden Namah and Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare are among 28 other MPs out of the 111 seats whose victory in the 2012 National Elections have not been challenged.
The other 83 are all before the National Court to determine whether their elections into the 9th Parliament were done in accordance with the law.
That is about 75 percent of the total seats that were contested in the 2012 National Elections.
This number of election petitions is the highest ever recorded in the short history of elections in PNG.
According to a website developed by the PNG Judiciary specifically for PNG national election petitions for 2012, there were 136 election petitions filed. Thirty-seven of these were originating summons while 105 are election petitions challenging either the winning member or the Electoral Commission in their conduct of the entire election process.
In the 83 disputed seats, there are two to three losing candidates who have filed separate petitions on one particular seat.
The most common argument by many of these petitioners is the conduct and performance of the Electoral Commission in delivering the elections. This include polling sites and schedules not provided to candidates and their scrutineers, counting of votes delayed by a week after completion of polling, and many more. The other common ground that will be challenged before the courts includes undue influence and bribery by the elected members.
Many petitioners have also raised concern that a number of election petition rules are very tough, arguing that many of their cases may be thrown out on technical grounds rather than the merits of the case.
One of these rules is for election petition documents to be strictly served on the respondents personally.A number of petitioners have returned to the courts to seek permission for extra time or substitute service after the respondents the elected members had deliberately evaded service.
Election petition administrator, Justice Collin Makail has also expressed concern about the number of election petitions that have come before him seeking extension of time. He said election petitions are very important and petitioners and MPs should corporate to bring these matters to conclusion as early as possible.

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