National Court dismisses election petition against Powi

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THE Waigani National Court yesterday dismissed an election petition filed by candidate Joseph Kobol against Southern Highlands Governor William Powi.
Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika yesterday found that Kobol had failed to comply with requirements of section 208 (b) of the Organic Law for choosing his own reliefs.
Sir Gibbs said the issue before the court was to consider whether the petitioner complied with s.208 (a) and s.208 (b) of the Organic law.
He said the first relief the petitioner sought was to dismiss the declaration of Powi as Southern Highlands governor by returning officer Stephen Kaupa on Sept 27, 2017, as null and void and of no force or effect.
“Presumably, that is a relief under s.212 (i) (f),” he said.
Sir Gibbs said the next relief the petitioner sought was that Powi was not duly-elected as SHP governor and that the seat was vacant.
“That is presumably a relief under s.212 (i) (f).”
Sir Gibbs said the third relief sought was an order that the electoral commission proceed with the elimination of candidates until a candidate reached the absolute majority plus one was declared.
“Section 121 does not provide such a relief.”
Sir Gibbs said the petitioner stated he only wished to void the declaration or return of the respondent, but allow the scrutiny process to be completed.
“The petitioner asserted that non-compliance with s.168 and s.175 renders the election of Powi null and void,” he said.
“He was not asking the court to void the entire election of the Southern Highlands regional seat but only to void the return of the first respondent and for the electoral commission to complete the scrutiny process under s.168.
“He relies on s.212 (3) and says that provisions give this court a wide discretion upon which an election or return may be invalidated and that the court may exercise its power on such grounds as the court in its discretion thinks just and sufficient.”
The court held that to ask for a relief, the Electoral Commission proceed with the elimination of candidates until a candidate reached the absolute majority plus one was not a relief under s212.
“The petition is dismissed with costs to the respondents.
“The security of costs be shared equally between the Electoral
Commission and Powi,” Sir Gibbs said.
The court also held that the petitioner filed proceedings on Aug 15 last year and made orders for the returning officer to complete the counting process and declare a winner. Those orders were upheld by the court.
“If those were indeed the orders of the court, why did the petitioner not rely on those orders to be complied with and have them enforced?” Sir Gibbs said.