Bougainvilleans have voted overwhelmingly for independence in referendum results released this evening.
The Bougainville Referendum Commission led by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, announced that 176,928 of a total 181,067 people voted for independence, or 97.7 per cent.
Just 3043 people voted for "Greater Autonomy" according to the Commission.
In a statement today the Commission said:
"We thank the two governments of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and the people of the Bougainville for their outstanding participation in this historic process – one part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. We recognise the Referendum has been a national event, and so also acknowledge and thank the people of Papua New Guinea.
As an electoral process that aspired to meet international standards, it is for observers, scrutineers and the media, and indeed the people themselves, to determine whether the conduct of the Referendum was inclusive, accessible, free and fair. We thank in particular scrutineers, and observers from here and overseas for bringing transparency and credibility to the process, and we look forward to their reports over the coming days and weeks.
However, as the mandated independent body appointed to conduct the Bougainville Referendum, it is our conclusion from what we witnessed ourselves throughout the process – through enrolment, polling and scrutiny – was an orderly process, following the laws and regulations provided, and was peaceful.We witnessed voting that was informed, free of fear and accessible.
Some of the numbers also tell an important story:
- The Referendum roll had equal numbers of women and men voting
- The Referendum roll had 25 per cent first time voters
- The voter turnout,of at least 85 per cent,was high when compared with international democratic electoral experience, and is the highest of any electoral process in Papua New Guinea
- The informal vote of 1,096 was low when compared with international democratic electoral experience and national elections."
The Commission also states: "We wish the two governments all the best in taking forward the Referendum result through a process of consultation, and on to the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea for final ratification as part of the ongoing peace process."
The Commission intends to retun the Referendum Write to PNG's Governor-General in Port Moresby this Friday.