Top of the election agenda are the economic management, provision of basic services, the perennial problem of corruption and there is little concern for external affairs. Australia is PNG’s biggest aid donor, with about $500 million spent annually, but the illegal asylum seeker detention centre on Manus Island and the Kokoda track are the two issues that dominate media coverage of its nearest neighbour. This year’s election is receiving little foreign media attention with the ABC, Radio New Zealand, Al Jazeera and SBS among the very few reporting in country, which may also be because of the difficulty in obtaining journalist visas.
Polls in PNG are a raucous, colourful and sometimes violent affair, with tens of thousands gathering, often in full traditional costume, for campaign rallies by party leaders.
There are over 3,000 candidates standing and 44 political parties in the country of 7.5 million people.
Apart from the established parties like Mr O’Neill’s People’s National Congress, National Alliance, People’s Progress Party and Triumph Heritage Empowerment (or THE) Party, there is a selection of Monty Python-esque names called the Paradise Kingdom Party, Wontoks in Godly Service Party and PNG’s very own One Nation Party (no relation).