Parties must outline policies

Editorial

TO be fair to voters, political parties must make it their duty to clearly define who they are, their policies, membership and the kind of people who will be representing them in Parliament.
That way, voters will not only be better informed but also have a good idea of who should be representing them in Parliament.
So how do we expect people to know about these political parties?
And that is why the Registrar of Political Parties Dr Alphonse Gelu had been stressing on the need for political parties to register, recruit members and inform the people about their policies and other relevant information.
We can safely say that right now, the people only know about the existing political parties but not the new ones.
The new parties have only themselves to blame for that because they have failed to do their homework and out in enough on the groundwork.
It will now therefore be surprising in this election that only a handful of parties will really make an impact on the voting trend.
It will be the big political parties, those that have adequate resources and those that are known because they were in government or parliament who will have the advantage.
They will have a head start on the smaller political parties and those that were only registered in the first quarter of 2017.
The electoral results database for Papua New Guinea launched last month makes available the country’s electoral history since the 1970s to the public and researches.
The database is a comprehensive source of information on the nation’s elections that maps the country’s 111 provincial and open constituencies and provides information on voting patterns over the last four decades.
Working with the Electoral Commission, the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre produced the database which presents election information in a way that is easy to understand.
The database is now available and free for all to use through the Development Policy Centre website (http://devpolicy.org/pngelections/).
A paper on the website which should be of interest to the people is Papua New Guinea election results: Trends and patterns 1972-2012 by Dr Terence Wood from ANU – Crawford School of Public Policy. It describes the trend in key electoral features in PNG.
It discusses trends in candidate numbers and winning candidate voter shares, and looks at the incumbent turnover and how long the typical MP stays in parliament.
It discusses the performance of women candidates and it looks at the impact of limited preferential voting.
An interesting subject would be on the way people voted. Results from research actually tell us a lot about voter behaviour and the choice.
It says most people in PNG cast their votes for the candidates they think is mostly likely to help them directly or help their families or help their village.
The voting behaviour this election will be worth watching given the growing trend with over 4000 candidates contesting, some going in as independents while others will stand under the banner of one of the 43 political parties registered.
It is also worth pointing out that from the next election, stringent measures should be put in place to bring the number of political parties down to below 20.
That sentiment is shared by the founding Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare who says there are too many political parties in the country.
He hopes that one day PNG will have a two or three party system.
That is the only way political parties can be recognised.
Too many political parties lead to further compartmentalisation of the voters, a hindrance to national unit.
From the trend so far, voting for localised or personalised benefits rather than party policies is a challenge when it comes to rounding up candidates to form the Government that can contribute to political stability when you have independent candidates declared winners.
All that said, everyone is looking forward to a good fair and free elections. Some have already made up their minds while others are waiting for the election campaign to decide on who to vote for.
It will all come down to which party has done enough groundwork and prepared itself well to ensure the voter’s tick goes in its favour.

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