“As Papua New Guinea prepares for the National General Elections in April 2017, the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission has submitted proposals for amendment when Parliament next sits on January 24th,” explains Political Science lecturer Patrick Kaiku.
“The PNG Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato, has indicated that the amendment to the electoral laws by Parliament will result in, among others: The reduction of campaign period from the current eight weeks to four weeks, increase in nomination fee from K1,000 to K10,000 for national elections and K200 to K1,000 for LLG elections, increase in election petition filing fee from K5,000 to K20,000, and places for filing election petitions to be restricted to four with one per region.”
Kaiku, who has been teaching politics at UPNG for five years, says there are three key points to understand about these proposed amendments.
“Firstly, these proposed amendments are not informed by any rigorous debate outside Parliament, thus rendering the intentions of these proposals questionable,” he states.
“It is unfortunate that no report commissioned by either the PNG Electoral Commission, or the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission, has assessed the impact of these proposed amendments or even the costs and benefits of these changes.
“Law-making should not be a knee-jerk reaction to circumstances and unfounded assumptions.
“Secondly, the proposed changes, if passed by Parliament into law, are untimely, and will disadvantage marginal political parties and candidates.”
The lecturer believes increasing the costs of nomination fees, or reducing the number of weeks for campaigning, will unfairly discriminate against smaller parties or candidates who seek to influence policy-making in the country.
“When entering any National General Elections, sitting national Members of Parliament (MPs), particularly in government, enjoy a certain level of recognition in the electorate by virtue of their incumbency,” states Kaiku.