Polling in Papua New Guinea has been disrupted amid violence and reports of ballot fraud, with opposition candidates accusing the government of doctoring the electoral roll. The two-week long vote began on June 24.
The two-week long election, which kicked off on June 24, will decide who will lead the resource-rich South Pacific nation. 3,332 candidates from 44 political parties are competing for seats in the 111-strong parliament.
But reports of violence, bribery and rigging hampered the polling midway.
Papua New Guinea has a history of electoral violence and corruption.
Political groups opposed to Prime Minister Peter O'Neill claim the government doctored the electoral roll, resulting in thousands of voters left out from the polls. In some provinces, voting was postponed due to logistical failures.
But an international election observer group said Sunday there was no evidence of deliberate disruptions.
"There have clearly been problems… but to be fair, in our observation, the government has endeavored to address these," Sir Anand Satyanand, chairman of the Commonwealth observer group, told the Reuters news agency.
PM O'Neill also rejected accusations of election rigging.
"The electoral roll is the responsibility of the Electoral Commission and is independent," he said in a statement on Sunday.
"Failed leaders can make any claim they like, but they never back this up with proof," he added.
The first attempt to hold the election was aborted because of a pay dispute with election workers and the arrest of and election manager carrying some $75,000 cash in his car and two returning officers accused of trying to smuggle ballot papers out of the election commission's headquarters.
Economic issues dominate vote
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who took office with his People's National Congress after the 2012 elections, campaigned on delivering key infrastructure and providing public education and health care.
O'Neill says his government has brought more stability to a sprawling country where violence has greeted previous elections.
"Let's show the international community that PNG has come of age and will express its democratic principles in a manner acceptable to the community," O'Neill said on June 24.
The right-wing Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party has emerged as the main opponent of the People's National Congress.
The opposition accuses Prime Minister O'Neill of mismanaging an economy long at the mercy of the market for global commodities. A series of protests had sought to topple his government last year.
shs/rc (Reuters, AFP)