PNG election polling date moved to accomodate threat of COVID-19 surge: Sinai

Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill voting in the 2017 election.

The PNG election polling date has been moved forward to 18 June from 25 June, Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai has announced.

Sinai said this cut the campaign period to 52 days from 28 April to 18 June, with polling period now 21 days instead of 14 days.

The changes come as the Electoral Commission tries to accommodate the growing threat of a Covid-19 surge during the PNG election period.

“The international community (bilateral partners) will be supporting procurement of some critical election materials which will include ballot boxes, seals and other materials,” Sinai said.

“I can confirm there will be gender-split polling booths.”

Controller of the National Pandemic Response David Manning told The National that the threat of a surge was “very real” with increase crowds of people moving between towns during the election period.

Manning, who is also the police commissioner, said: “Just prior to April and the issue of writs, we are likely to see an increasing number in Covid-19 cases, that is why we are trying to control the rate of infections before we go into the election period.

“This is why a directive was sent out to ban gatherings of 100 or more persons in the country.

“With six million voting in this year’s election, it is imperative we get it right by ensuring that there is a Covid-19 plan in place for the people to adhere to and follow.”

Manning said that polling schedule development was top priority in close consultation with the Electoral Commission; this was where security planning was paramount to ensuring campaigning and polling did not see issues rise, he added.

Sinai said: “The issue of writs remain the same, on Thursday, 28 April at 4pm.

“It is also when nominations open with the common roll closed to new enrolments and transfers.

“All candidates who wish to nominate must do so via Form 23 plus the fee of K1,000(US$285), nominations close on Thursday, 05 May, 4pm.”

He said the return of writs would be on or before Friday, 29 July.

The finale scrutiny of the counting procedures and forms will be in April, the dispatch of general election materials by road and sea will be done between April and May.

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