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A ‘failed’ Papua New Guinea national elections would be a disaster for Papua and Australia

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 17 June 2022

In two weeks' time around six million Papua New Guineans will vote to elect a new National Parliament which, when it assembles, will choose the next Prime Minister.

Papua New Guinea is a robust parliamentary democracy, but one that is not without serious flaws.

The flaws really are consistent with the state of public administration in Papua New Guinea - underfunded, lacking in sound management, and struggling to cope with the challenging terrain of our closest neighbour.


Papua New Guinea society today is, to borrow Paul Keating's favourite saying, "hanging together like a gossamer thread".

It really needs the national elections to be transparent, honest and efficient. The problems which have emerged already cast doubt over all three.

There has been talk in the PNG media that the elections might "fail". We have to hope that does not happen - it would create enormous problems for PNG and for Australia.

So far, even before voting starts, there have been 29 deaths which can be directly linked to the elections. It would be safe to say that many more recent deaths can be indirectly limited to the tensions the elections cause.

Papua New Guinea's future stability depends on good government and on a representative national parliament which the people can have confidence in. It is the parliament, not the people, who chooses the prime minister, who then appoints the cabinet.

The process in electing the next prime minister will be the subject of a future article. It is complex, drawn out, and all too frequently dependent on coercion and money!


But back to the actual elections. Australia has sent 150 defence force personnel to PNG mainly to help with logistics such as distributing and collecting ballot boxes. In a parliament of around 120 members, the majority of whom live in rural and remote areas, it is a logistical nightmare.

The ADF role will be invaluable.

Alarmingly, China has offered to send security force personnel to help maintain law and order during the elections. But mercifully PNG has not taken up the offer.

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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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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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