Elections in Papua New Guinea’s dysfunctional democracy

26 May 2017

Author: Bill Standish, ANU

2016 for Papua New Guinea (PNG) was both politically turbulent and economically stressful with government revenues and currency falling, but inflation and deficit rising. The nationwide election in June–July 2017 will be a major measure of the political impact of the government’s critics, and the sustainability of Prime Minister O’Neill’s bankrolling tactics.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill makes an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, 29 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters/Tim Wimborne).

In May 2016, a five week strike by university students called on O’Neill to resign over corruption and misgovernment allegations. Then in June, police shot at students marching to lobby parliament. After years of parliament not even considering attempted motions of no confidence, the Supreme Court ruled in July that the government must be held accountable. O’Neill survived the 22 July vote of no confidence 85 to 21, after allegedly dispersing district funds totaling many millions of kina through members of parliament (MPs).

O’Neill was expanding a pattern set by Sir Michael Somare of a government largely based on allocating billions of kina each year to districts, funds which have contributed to PNG’s fiscal crisis. Unfortunately these funds — which MPs effectively control — have little positive impact on essential services.

The government acknowledges there is corruption but it’s not fighting it hard. The Police Fraud Squad director has estimated that in 2016 complaints of official fraud totaled 1.5 billion kina (US$472 million). Across the country, social media analysts have spread details of collapsing government services and corruption.

Read the full article on EAST ASIA FORUM.

Updated:  4 February 2016/Responsible Officer:  Director, Pacific Institute/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team