Friday, May 13, 2011

Polls dilemma

Amend election legislation or face deferral, govt warned




THE government has been urged to push for urgent electoral reforms to increase the number of open electorates or face a constitutional crisis – a possible postponement – in the general election next year, The National reports.

The 2002 law governing elections had provided for no more than 120 open electorates from the current 89.

That legislation must be re-amended to maintain 89 open seats but did not take into account the two new electorates of Jiwaka and Hela for which enabling legislation must be passed for their existence.

Adding to the complication was the newly-appointed Electoral Boundaries Commission which did not recommend for more seats in parliament.

The minister responsible for the electoral commission, Francis Potape, and Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Sir Arnold Amet were yesterday preparing a submission for the national executive council on the urgency of amending the 2002 provincial and national election legislation.

Failure to make amendments could mean postponing the general election next year, a source familiar with election laws said yesterday.

The source, who did not want to be named, said if the government did not amend the law, the new 2012 parliament was likely to be postponed to the following year.

The source said Potape and Sir Arnold had prepared the cabinet submission suggesting either a postponement of the elections or to have the newly appointed Electoral Boundaries Commission recommend the creation of more electorates.

The source stressed that the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections as amended in 2002 would have to be amended again to retain the 89 open electorate seats for the 2012 election.

The source said the government would prefer to defer the election.

However, Potape was adamant yesterday that the election was going ahead next year "as announced and revealed by the Electoral Commission".

Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen also said next year's election "will take place as planned but there are doubts whether the election will be conducted as required under the amended Organic Law".

Potape said the amendment to the legislation was ready and the government had ample time to amend the law as elections were still a year away.

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