The National, Thursday 05th July, 2012
By JEFFREY ELAPA
PETER O’Neill is assured of retaining his Ialibu-Pangia seat in a landslide victory, making him the first MP to be confirmed for the new parliament.
Although some boxes from the electorate are yet to be counted, the caretaker prime minister was safely in front last night polling 29,512 votes and should safely secure the 50%-plus-one majority in the first count. He needs to get more than 30,598.
Hundreds of people, gathering outside the counting centre at the Momei Oval in Mendi, have been chanting his name and calling on counting officials to declare him the winner.
But returning officer Michael Ariando said they could not declare him the winner although he had almost reached the required number of votes.
Ariando said all the boxes had to be opened and votes counted before a formal announcement of the winner was made.
O’Neill could not be reached for a comment last night but the general secretary of his People’s National Congress party Jonathan Oata said O’Neill’s performance at the polls was expected.
“The people wanted O’Neill to return to parliament unopposed because he is the prime minister,” Oata said in a statement.
“But the seven candidates defied the wishes of their people, and the result is showing very clearly.
“The people of Ialibu-Pangia are speaking through the ballot in a very resounding manner.”
It is O’Neill’s third term as the Ialibu-Pangia MP.
In 2007, he also polled more than 50% of primary votes to win outright.
He was first elected to parliament in 2002, ousting Roy Yaki by a similar majority.
The closest to O’Neill are independent candidate Raphael Noipo on 3,780 votes and Eke Lama on 3,735.
Ariando said about 25 ballot boxes from Pangia and Kware had been disputed and locked away.
A total of 72 ballot boxes have been counted.
Meanwhile, the ballot boxes for Nipa-Kutubu were awaiting a decision by the Electoral Commission before they could be counted.
Similarly in the Imbonggu open seat, the Piambil Two box and the Tona box have been disputed and locked away in the container.