Voting began in Papua New Guinea (PNG) elections Saturday with the Pacific nation’s leader urging peaceful polling to show it has “come of age”, as he seeks another term to fix an economy under siege. Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress won the last election in 2012, and he has campaigned on delivering key infrastructure and providing free education and health to a country that remains mired in poverty. He also points to more stability in a sprawling crime-ridden land where elections have been marred by violence in the past.
“I appeal to all our citizens to peacefully cast their votes,” said the prime minister, with more than 3,000 candidates from over 40 political parties jostling for support. “Let’s show the international community that PNG has come of age and will express its democratic principles in a manner acceptable to the community.”
Polling for the 111-seat parliament runs for two weeks until July 8 with staggered voting across the vast and remote country. A result is not expected until late July.
There is no opinion polling in PNG, so it is unclear who holds the advantage. But no party has ever won a majority, meaning a coalition is likely, held together by strategic political appointments.