Democracy at a heavy cost


VIOLENCE, destruction of property and loss of life during elections prove that our version of democracy does have high personal costs besides the huge logistic challenges faced by the State.
During and after elections as the state agencies, political parties and candidates tally up their costs, some individuals and families are left with a sense of deep and permanent loss.
Administrative and logistic foul-ups are bound to happen.
But this far in the history of PNG democracy, citizens should be wiser and avoid some of the mistakes of previous elections, especially those relating to violence and loss of life.
Media reports over the years indicate otherwise.
There have been far too many incidents of violence between supporters of rival candidates, people being manhandled by security personnel and people being killed.
What is obvious from the incidents is that some people willingly risk their jobs, dignity and lives for the sake of their candidates.
In their push for power and fame, aspiring politicians have even been accused of attempting to lure people charged with the proper conduct of the election to do their bidding.
But any candidate who promotes such illegal activities to improve his or her chances of winning is totally unfit to hold public office in any democracy.
This next election is not going to unlike those in the past. Perhaps the biggest concern in the 2022 election is whether there would even be enough money to run it successfully.

However, the Prime Minister has more than once assured the nation that the election would go ahead as scheduled.
But unfortunately, no one can guarantee that it will be free of violence.
Going by ‘preparations’ and whispers from some quarters people may get hurt or killed still like in previous elections and that is worrying.
It makes no sense that when mostly the already well-to-do bid for the 111 parliamentary seats to improve their status in life, it is largely the innocent villager or settlement dweller who bears the brunt of any lawless act during the election process.
For the best part of five years, the illiterate villager remains out of sight and out of mind.
When he gets called to cast his vote, he enjoys a few minutes of recognition, making his contribution to the nation and dissolves back into the masses – until the next election comes around five years later.
Unfortunately, the supposedly innocent villagers are often caught up in the hype of elections and lured into doing things they regret later.
Part of the reason for this unfortunate turn of events during elections is the poor understanding of modern political leadership which is contrary to the traditional tribal leadership in many ways.
The elected MP is a representative of the electorate. And if he is seen to be favouring a select group or parts of the electorate, he ceases to be a fit and fair representative of his electorate.
When there is unfair distribution of goods and services, there is bound to be tension and anger which come to the fore during the election period.
This has been the main cause of widespread destruction, violence and needless loss of life that must be avoided in future elections.
Following the 2017 election the Commonwealth Observer Group made recommendations on how best to run future elections.
While much of that advice is aimed at State agencies, there is also a need for voters to understand the role of an MP in a democracy.
A lot of what has happened during this election can be avoided if people go to the polls with that understanding.