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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 June 2007, 03:25 GMT 04:25 UK
Voting begins in Papua New Guinea
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

A man looks at candidate posters at a bus station in Port Moresby on 29 June 2007
Voting continues in Papua New Guinea until 10 July
Voters in Papua New Guinea are to begin heading to the polls to cast ballots in the country's general election.

The electoral process lasts until mid-July to ensure the ballot can take place in remote areas of the nation.

More than 2,000 troops and police have been deployed across the impoverished South Pacific country in an attempt to stamp out violence and corruption.

The country's incumbent Prime Minister Michael Somare is aiming to secure a second consecutive term in office.

The authorities are determined to avoid a repeat of the violence and corruption which surrounded the last election in 2002, when an estimated 100 people were killed and vote-rigging was rife.

In some districts, electoral rolls were inflated by as much as 300%.

They included the names not only of people who were dead, but voters who had never even existed.

Corruption

With the aim of making these elections free and fair, the government has deployed some 2,000 soldiers and police.

Many have been sent to the Southern Highlands province, a heavily forested part of the country where intimidation and violence were a particular problem at the last ballot.

Six of the nine electorates were declared invalid.

There is no great democratic tradition in the former Australian colony and clan leaders often direct their members how to vote.

Women are often barred from participating in the polls, with their electoral papers commonly filled out by their husbands.

In a country where a third of the people live below the poverty line and where unemployment runs at 80% in some urban areas, a seat in parliament can secure a much more abundant life.

It is one of the reasons why vote-rigging and corruption is endemic.


SEE ALSO
State of emergency in PNG region
01 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian police 'may quit PNG'
13 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Papua New Guinea 'to implode'
14 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country Profile: Papua New Guinea
09 Jul 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Papua New Guinea
19 May 03 |  Country profiles

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