With exactly 23 weeks remaining before the scheduled issuing of writs for the 2022 National General Elections on Thursday, April 28 2022, Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) is issuing a call on the National Government to take action and make a formal appointment to the position of Electoral Commissioner, and to ensure that this appointment is formalized in accordance with the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections.
While Prime Minister Marape has restated his position during the Parliament sitting this week that the elections will proceed as planned, the long-standing vacancy at the head of the PNG Electoral Commission (PNGEC) and the current acting arrangements may cause instability within the Electoral Commission workforce and as a result could disrupt planning and preparations for a successful delivery of the 2022 National Elections.
TIPNG Chair, Peter Aitsi said with less than six months left before the issue of writs, the current leadership vacuum within the PNGEC should be a very serious concern for all stakeholders.
“Simon Sinai was officially appointed Acting Electoral Commissioner following former Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato’s suspension in August of 2020,” Mr Aitsi said.
“This acting appointment has since expired in February and was further extended in August this year, with no substantive appointment yet to be made.”
He said the National General Elections represent a very significant logistical undertaking which should not be taken lightly.
“As we have experienced in past elections, staging a national election in PNG is a complex and challenging exercise on many fronts, and so if we are to have any hope of carrying out the 2022 National Elections in a truly free, fair, efficient, and peaceful manner, the PNG Electoral Commission, as the lead agency, must be given ample time to put its house in order.”
“This includes ensuring that an impeccably credentialed, competent, and qualified individual is appointed to lead the organization, confidence in the process to appointing the new commissioner, as well as the credibility and integrity of that person, will go a long way to restoring public trust, including the trust and confidence of intending candidates.”
TIPNG’s call to action comes after a two-month-long silence from the Electoral Commission Appointments Committee (ECAC) headed by the PM, following the official closing of applications for the position of Electoral Commissioner on Friday 6th August 2021.
“We (TIPNG) understand that a shortlist of applicants has been put together since the position was formally advertised in June this year. The legitimacy of this appointment must be upheld to the highest standards, as the outcome will ultimately underpin the integrity of the 2022 National Elections,” said Mr. Aitsi.