The National, Thursday July 19th, 2012
By JEFFREY ELAPA
KAGUA-Erave MP James Lagea has retained his seat with an absolute majority, scoring 19,043 votes that represent 58% of the tally.
Lagea, an independent candidate, was well ahead of nearest rival Komeali Ropa (PNG Party) who had 14,929.
Lagea thanked his people for voting him in as well as the security forces and the Electoral Commission for conducting peaceful elections.
As a token of appreciation, he gave K10,000 to the counting officials and another K5,000 to the security forces for their work.
He said that he was prepared to join any government that is led by a Southern Highlander so that he would be able to deliver and develop Kagua-Erave and the Southern Highlands.
Meanwhile, counting for other electorates in the Southern Highlands has been at a snail’s
pace although the province was the first to conduct polling and counting.
The 21-day counting period ended yesterday but only two electorates have been declared.
Counting for Imbonggu, Mendi and Nipa-Kutubu have been very slow and have gone into their eliminations.
The counting is expected to continue for the rest of the week.
Winners should be declared by early next week if counting continues at the same pace.
Meanwhile electoral officials including the returning officers, the assistant returning officers, the counting officials, scrutineers and the candidates have been blamed for the delay in the counting.
Counting resumes at 10.30am each day as officials continue to arrive late and end counting at 4.30pm. Counting is also disrupted because candidates and scrutineers raise disputes.
However, counting for the regional seat is progressing well without major delays.