Wingti challenges recount result

National, Normal

FORMER prime minister Paias Wingti has been given an opportunity to challenge the result of the third recount of votes for the Western Highlands provincial seat.
The recount was recently concluded in Port Moresby.
At the conclusion of that recount, ordered by the Supreme Court, Western Highlands Governor Tom Olga polled 140,958 votes to Wingti’s 139,370.
The winning margin was 1,588 votes.
Following the recount, Mr Olga and his lawyers applied to the National Court to have him declared as the winner.
Mr Olga’s lawyers relied on Order 9 of the Supreme Court, which stated in part that at the completion of the count, the National Court “shall declare the candidate with the highest number of votes duly elected”.
Mr Wingti’s lawyers opposed this, saying he still had the right to challenge the result of the recount further.
Justice David Cannings agreed with submissions made by lawyer Alfred Manase for Mr Wingti, that the Supreme Court order does not oblige the National Court to accept the result of the recount without further inquiry.
The parties were not prevented from challenging the result of the further recount, he said.
Justice Cannings said the challenge must have merit, and must not be frivolous.
The judge granted Mr Wingti’s motion to challenge the result of the recount. Justice Cannings also refused to declare Mr Olga as duly elected.
No time and place have been set for the challenge to be heard.
It is understood that Mr Olga would continue in office as governor and regional MP as directed by the Supreme Court until the matter is settled.