Counting stalled over dispute

National, Normal


COUNTING of votes for the Kandep by-election was suspended on Saturday following complaints by scrutineers of candidates over what they termed as an unfair method of counting favouring one candidate.
The scrutineers alleged that the counting officials were selecting ballot boxes from polling areas regarded as strongholds of this candidate to give him an “unfair” advantage at the early stage of vote counting.
They said the method agreed initially before the counting started was to “mix” or pick randomly from different LLGs so the spread would be even.
They said the “one-sided count” meant most candidates scored zero votes whereas only one candidate was amassing votes.
They also disputed the eligibility of four more ballot boxes, bringing the number of disputed ballot boxes to 18.
Lawyers for the Electoral Commission are studying the complaints and will decide the fate of the disputed boxes this week.
Electoral Commission officials said their lawyer flew out of Goroka on Saturday to Port Moresby and was expected to return today with a decision.
Counting of votes remained suspended yesterday.
If the Electoral Commission decides not to count the 18 disputed boxes, then votes in only 27 ballot boxes remain to be counted.
At the end of count 26 last Friday night, former Kandep MP Don Polye maintained a comfortable lead with 7,980 votes, while his nearest rival Luke Alfred Manase trailed in second place with 2,636 votes.
With 14,235 first preference votes distributed so far under the Limited Preferential Vote system, Mr Polye holds a 56.07% lead.
If he maintains this when the counting of the first preference votes are completed, he will be declared the winner.
But this appears very unlikely, as the margin is likely to be reduced as the counting of votes reaches the strongholds of other candidates.
Independent candidate Herman Lyamugi Anep is third with 1,506 votes.
The 12 other candidates scored less than 1,000 votes.
The writs for the Kandep by-election will be returned this Friday.