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Why is it so impossible to predict the outcome of PNG elections

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 11 March 2022

With national elections to formally commence in a matter of weeks, a number of our readers have asked me to predict the most likely outcome.

I have observed every PNG national elections since 1980: 1980, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 20012, and 2017.

Despite that experience I find it impossible to predict with any confidence who will win, let alone why.


As part of my "information” series for On Line Opinion on the PNG National Elections I need to devote my first contribution to the absolute complexity of national polls in our closest neighbour. By comparison they make even a complete Senate count simple by comparison.

As I have written in the past the biggest "business” In Papua New Guinea is politics! And that is just not when the five year election cycle looms.

The coming three or four months will hardly be "productive" for the already struggling PNG business and investment sectors. The elections, and the unique nature of the PNG campaigns, simply dominates almost every aspect of urban settlements and rural communities alike.

In a Parliament of just over 110 members - single chamber though provincial governors are elected separately - there are likely to be FIVE THOUSAND candidates! So that means an average of 50 candidates per open and regional electorate.

When I last checked there were just over 25 registered political parties - and another 20 or so that are not formally registered.

Unlike Australia where media and online advertising dominates, until recent times just about all campaigning in PNG consisted of large rallies and the distribution of posters. The coming election will see a significant lift in "online" campaigning as mobile phones and the internet expand.


But it is questionable how much impact "online" campaigning will have - no doubt more than in 2017, but in many electorates not enough to make a significant difference. It doesn’t help that there have been several changes to the method of voting and counting in recent years - it began as first past the post, then part professional, then full preferential. It would be an understatement to say the good people of PNG are entitled to be confused!

The other troubling aspects of the polls relate to electoral boundaries and the integrity of the electoral roll.

There has not been a full redistribution of electoral boundaries since BEFORE Independence in 1975!  As a result, the electorates do not even approximate "one vote one value". In some seats, there are 180,000 to-200,000 on the roll. In other seats the number of enrolees is below 100,000.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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