PNG Prime Minister Has Early Vote Lead; Competitor Challenging Legality Of Sunday Poll

O'Neill's PNC party 'on track' to return to power according to early results

By Gynnie Kero and Damies Tien

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 12, 2017) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is expected to win a fourth term as the Ialibu-Pangia MP, although a case filed in court yesterday by a rival candidate may delay the final result.

When counting was suspended at 6pm yesterday, O’Neill was ahead on 13,510 votes. Stanley Liria was second on 2444.

[PIR editor's note: On July 12, 2017 PNG Post-Courier reported that 'The ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) Party is on track to returning to power if the early poll results are any indication. The declaration of its senior members James Marape in Tari-Pori and Justin Tkatchenko today in Moresby South set the pace as their party leader Prime Minister Peter O’Neill leads the count in Ialibu-Pangu. ... It’s too early to comfortably forecast the outcome because of the limited preferential system but as it is PNC members are in the top five counting which started in earnest in at least 19 electorates across the country. ']

But yesterday, Liria, through lawyer Greg Egan, filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking a ruling on the legality of voting on a Sunday. Voting in Ialibu-Pangia was conducted on Sunday, July 2.

Justice Stephen Kassman adjourned the hearing of the application to Monday to allow time for other parties to be served the court documents.

Justice Kassman, however, refused to hear an application by Liria seeking interim orders to stop the counting in the electorate which began last Sunday, and to stop the declaration of a winner pending the outcome of the substantive case.

Justice Kassman said Liria would still have his right to file an election petition if the counting continued, and a declaration was made before the matter returned to court on Monday.

Egan told the court that the polling on Sunday July 2 was unconstitutional because it breached Section 130 of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections. Thus, he said no declaration should be made.

Egan said only the Supreme Court – not the Court of Disputed Returns – could deal with a fundamental breach of the Constitution.

Lawyer Lisandra Kot, representing the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato, lawyer Tiffany Twivey, representing O’Neill as the Ialibu-Pangia MP, and a lawyer representing the State asked the court for an adjournment as they needed time to get instructions from their clients as they were short-served with the court documents.

Justice Kassman granted the adjournment.

The National
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