WESTERN Highlands Governor Tom Olga has again pipped his predecessor Paias Wingti in the recount of votes for the Western Highlands provincial seat.
The recount of votes, ordered by the Supreme Court, ended on Monday evening after four weeks of counting at the National Research Institute in Port Moresby.
Electoral Commission officials said Mr Olga polled 140,958 votes to Mr Wingti’s 139,370, a difference of 1,588 votes.
The officials said Mr Wingti led the race when counting began until the final (24th) elimination.
After the 23rd elimination, Mr Wingti was in front with 129,089 votes and Mr Olga had 116,909 votes. Wai Rapa was the next and the final candidate to be eliminated and, from his second and third preferences, Mr Olga polled 24,049 to Wingti’s 10,281.
When that result was tallied to the progressive total, Mr Olga surged past Mr Wingti for a final tally of 140,958 votes to 139,370.
During the vote count after the 2007 general elections, the difference between Mr Olga and Mr Wingti was 3,305 votes.
In the recount of votes ordered by the National Court in 2008, the difference was 1,004 votes in favour of Mr Olga.
Asked why the final result of the three vote counts were different, officials said some ballot papers that were rejected as informal (in the 2008 recount), because they had the signature of the presiding officer on the front of the ballot papers, were allowed to be counted this time because of the Supreme Court ruling in the Okapa case. It was also discovered that some valid votes for Mr Olga were previously placed in the exhausted vote tray, they said.
As directed by the Supreme Court, the result of the recount will now be presented to the National Court next Monday for a decision.
Lawyers for Mr Olga and the Electoral Commission are expected to ask the National Court to confirm the result, and declare Mr Olga the winner.
Mr Wingti lodged an election dispute after the 2007 general election, alleging irregularities and illegal practices.
National Court judge Justice David Cannings upheld his grounds, and ordered a by-election after finding irregularities in the election and counting process.
This decision was appealed against, and the Supreme Court overturned the earlier ruling by Justice Cannings, and ordered the recount.