Crafty candidates flashing the cash

LOFTY promises and project announcements are hallmarks of any election campaign around the world but Papua New Guinean voters tend to be more swayed by physical evidence of the benefits to come.
Crafty candidates flashing the cash Crafty candidates flashing the cash Crafty candidates flashing the cash Crafty candidates flashing the cash Crafty candidates flashing the cash

Published in the January 2012 PNG Report magazine

With the scheduled November budget delayed into December, there have been some raised eyebrows over the possibility the looming June election might be a cause.

Institute of National Affairs PNG executive director Paul Barker shed light on some of the typical tactics employed by the "honourable" members of parliament ahead of an election.

Barker said MPs had electoral funds for their campaigns, although technically they were meant to be district funds.

"Some of the MPs have ensured district funds haven't been spent earlier and they are sort of left for the last minute so they are able to make as much electoral capital as possible in the lead-up to the elections - which again is not the purpose of district funds - but at the end of the day you tend to see a lot of boats and vehicles appearing often with door stickers saying donated by such and such," Barker told PNG Report.

Barker also knows of another alarming, vote-winning tactic, based on observations during the recent reign of the O'Neill-Namah coalition government.

"Certainly there have been politicians, including some ministers, who've been going around demonstrating large wads of bank notes. They seem to be indicating that they are providing government money for various projects.

"But why it is done in such a crude manner would tend to be indicating that malpractice is intended, or trying to indicate to people that there is a lot more of where this comes from."

Should an MP lose his seat, there is a possibility that promised "gifts", even if funded from public funds, will be taken away.

"If they lose the election they say, ‘right I am taking that back'," Barker said.

"Oh hang on - that wasn't really your money in the first place, it was public money."

The National Alliance party lost its grip over parliament in August and the subsequent reign of the O'Neill-Namah government brought forward new, if uncertain, optimism among many of change in PNG.

Barker said the key departments of agriculture, lands and petroleum desperately needed cleaning up.

"Some of these are fundamental. If we see in the next period of time [that it is] ‘business as usual' despite some sound earlier promises from the prime minister [O'Neill] and ministers then we will be worried."

While there is political uncertainty since the Supreme Court ruling on December 12, most of Barker's comments were based on observations of previous election campaigns over many years.

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