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By Domic Krau

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 31, 2002 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Public interest in June’s Papua New Guinea elections is low, according to University of Papua New Guinea political science lecturer Dr. Henry Okole.

Dr. Okole attributed this to poor governance, an emerging consciousness of voters, the economic downturn, the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates and vote buying.

He said people could no longer be bothered with candidates' campaign speeches and activities when the popular view was they were all liars.

He added: "The public appears to be showing weariness from the appalling quality of governance.

"Many MPs have continuously showed they can easily compromise their constitutional responsibilities and most of them are increasingly becoming sedated by the glamour of power and wealth that they simply overlooked or undermined their responsibilities to their constituencies."

The voting populace has a level of consciousness marked by deep skepticism and frustration over the role of parliamentarians, he said.

Dr. Okole said about 60 percent of eligible voters could be expected at the polls, however. The bulk would be divided between those casting protest ballots to unseat incumbents and others whose votes would be purchased.

"Between now and the elections, we should expect a lot of parties and candidates to come in big in terms of money distributions and inducements in kind," he said.

He said the current economic difficulties in PNG were also constraining political parties and candidates from engaging themselves in more campaign activities.

The clearest illustration of the impact of Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates was how many candidates felt compelled to join parties, he said.

"While contesting the election as an independent is still desirable, many candidates assumed that it was best to join up with parties mainly for financial reasons and post-election politics," Dr. Okole said.

He said the law was still poorly understood and that the shelter of a party was more soothing for cautious candidates.

Speaking on vote buying, Dr. Okole said a candidates' personality and character still attracted voters. However, for the desperate, such as incumbents, money was the answer.

"A few candidates around the city have been throwing cash around as if the Sirinumu dam money was dug in their backyards. Not surprising, as they (candidates) are attracting endless throngs of supporters.

"On that token, perhaps there is a bright side to the gloomy campaign atmosphere ... it can be profitable."

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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