NEW ZEALAND, PNG TO OBSERVE BOUGAINVILLE ELECTION

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Logistics biggest challenge in tomorrow’s presidential election

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 5, 2008) - The New Zealand High Commission in Papua New Guinea is sending an informal mission to observe Bougainville’s presidential election which starts tomorrow.

The election follows the death in June of Joseph Kabui, who was the first president of the autonomous Bougainville government.

The New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner Alistair Crozier will be joined by a representative from the Australian High Commission, and possible a representative from the United States Embassy.

The High Commissioner, Niels Holm, says they will be trying to get a feel on the level of public acceptance and engagement in the election.

He says things seem to be well on track to go smoothly, but the biggest challenge will be logistics.

"Bougainville’s communications are poor, a lot of the regions can only be reached by boat or by helicopter, I’m not sure any helicopters are being employed this time. The main road from Buka down to Arawa is pretty rough, about 15 river crossings involved. It’s just the sheer difficulties of deploying 150-odd election teams with the requisite equipment and security getting around the country and collecting all the vote again."

Niels Holm says the election is impossible to pick, with 14 candidates, and no frontrunners.

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