Candidates, scrutineers force counting delays

National, Normal

The National, Thursday July 12th, 2012

COUNTING in parts of New Guinea Islands was on a “stop-go” mode this week as candidates and scrutineers continually raised complaints.In New Ireland, counting in Kavieng was suspended on Tuesday night after scrutineers and supporters of the 16 candidates contesting the open and regional seats presented a petition alleging discrepancies in the voting and counting. Counting resumed in Kavieng and Namatanai yesterday afternoon.Some of the issues raised included figures on the tally board not reconciling with the figures of votes cast at close of polling, the total number of ballot papers recorded were not the same as the total ballot papers during counting, certain presiding officers and election managers were collaborating with candidates.
Provincial returning officer Ricky Fugunto in his written response said figures were reconciled with the returns from each polling team.Counting was suspended in Namatanai at 8.30am yesterday after count 34 when four candidates complained that before polling, the current governor and MP used funds under the disabled pension programme to lure voters. Returning officer Michael Agovauwa was told by Electoral Commission lawyers that counting must resume and any grievances must be taken up with the court of disputed returns after the elections.Progressive results for Namatanai after count 34 saw Byron Chan leading on 8,652, Walter Schnaubelt 5,800, John Sait 3,553 and Kepas Wali on 2,584. In East New Britain, counting at the Vunapope Diocesan Hall for the Kokopo open seat was suspended at 11.45am yesterday after six candidates protested that candidate numbers did not correspond with the names on the ballot papers.Returning officer Thomas Monep suspended counting after count seven as they waited for provincial election officials to deliberate on the issue.Counting at the Maltech Secondary School for the Rabaul seat was suspended on Tuesday afternoon after allegations of nepotism and foul play of ballot boxes.Yesterday, provincial election officials met at the counting venue and managed to address the issues. Counting will resume today.