By ZACHERY PER
COUNTING of votes for the Kandep by-election has finally started more than a week after polling ended.
Counting began at around 11.30am yesterday at the old betting shop in Goroka under tight security provided by the police mobile squad 14 and Goroka-based policemen.
Counting of votes was suspended last night after votes in five ballot boxes were counted.
Ousted Kandep MP Don Polye is the early leader, polling 1,510 primary votes ahead of his nearest rival Alfred Manase who polled 916 votes.
Boxes counted were from Mondopa polling place (count one), Wapi (count two), Pindak (count three), Andako (count four) and Maru (count five).
A total of 2,958 valid votes were distributed among the candidates from the five boxes counted.
Other candidates who managed to collect primary votes from these counts were Kenneth Y Andrew (238), Be Pebo (91), Moses Wage (35), Herman Lyamugi Anep (24), Peter Mision Yaki (110).
Counting started after continuous concerns raised with the acting retuning officer, Simon Simoi, by scrutineers, particularly those representing Mr Polye and Mr Manase.
Four electronic counting stations were set up for the counting, for the convenience of the scrutineers.
The first station was used for the first box, for Mondopa polling place in the Kandep LLG.
Eastern Highlands provincial election manager Alwyn Jimmy, while welcoming all the counting officials, security personnel and scrutineers, appealed to the supporters of the various candidates to respect the electoral process as a lot of time was already wasted and counting delayed for 12 days.
Assistant returning officer Kila Ralai told scrutineers that any complaints of hijacking would only be addressed through the court process and counting would go ahead without any further delay.
He was responding to complaints by scrutineers of alleged hijacking of ballot boxes and tampering during the three-day polling.
“Your complaints and documents are coming in very late, the whole process of polling in Kandep was hijacked.
“There were a lot of intimidation, threats and disturbances, we’ll get all of your reports but will deal with them later through the right process,” Mr Ralai said.
He made the remarks after Mr Polye’s scrutineer complained that two boxes meant for Rombolus one and two were hijacked.
Yesterday, boxes for Wert, Yuripaka, Inwap, Komboros and Pindako polling places in the Kandep LLG and ballot boxes for Andakoa, Wapi, Maru, Nerep and Pidaki polling sites in the Wage LLG were removed from the police station to the counting room for counting.
Every person that went into the counting area was thoroughly searched for extra ballot papers, while large sums of money and cell phones were barred from the counting centre.
A total of 36,000 voters went to the polls during the polling.
A new member for the electorate is expected to be declared by the end of the week.