Asia St: PNG’s Extended Election Spotlights Wider Challenges

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PNG’s Extended Election Spotlights Wider Challenges

July 29, 2022

PNG National Parliament House (Photo Credit: PNG Government)

The BGA Papua New Guinea Team led by Senior Advisor Amb. Ian Kemish, wrote an update to clients on the election extension in Papua New Guinea due to tensions and outbreaks of violence.

Context

  • The governor general announced on July 26 that the country’s ongoing national election will be extended by two weeks out to August 12.The decision will buy the PNG Electoral Commission much-needed time to correct the highly dysfunctional electoral process and avoid a failed election.
  • Outbreaks of violence and attempts to disrupt vote counting have also motivated the extension. So far, there have been roughly 50 deaths due to election-related violence this year. Incidents in urban PNG are quite new, with past violence often restricted to remote highland regions.

Significance

  • Violent episodes in both rural and urban PNG are marring the election, reflecting in part the significant socioeconomic grievances that Papua New Guineans have endured in recent years.While violence was generally restricted to remote highland regions in past elections, it has spread to other parts of the country this time.
  • The violent situation is partly due to tensions that have been building during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has damaged the national economy and urban living standards.Local concerns rather than overarching national issues generally determine how Papua New Guineans vote, so personal grievances are easily aggravated at election time.

Implications

  • While it is still too early to tell who will lead the next government, Marape and nine other serving MPs from his Pangu Party have been declared winners in their constituencies. This gives Pangu some early momentum in the coalition-building process that will now unfold.
  • Though general political continuity is expected, the post-election context and planning for next polls will be affected by some wider trends. These include rising youth angst and the weakening of traditional community structures of authority.

BGA will continue to keep you updated on developments in Papua New Guinea as they occur. If you have any comments or questions, please contact BGA Senior Advisor Amb. Ian Kemish at ikemish@bowergroupasia.com.