Papua New Guinea’s parliamentary elections took place June 24 to July 8, and there was significant controversy. During the election, officials went on strike in the capital city, Port Moresby, and violence broke out at polling stations in Enga province, where at least 20 people died. Election officials worked slowly to tally the votes, delaying the announcement of results as a way to protest lack of payment. It wasn’t until late September that the last undeclared seat was filled. Despite these and other setbacks, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill formed a new government in Papua New Guinea in early August. Here’s what you need to know about this country’s complex voting system. In Papua New Guinea’s ninth election since independence from Australia in 1975, 3,340 candidates ran in races for 111 parliamentary seats. Half of those candidates came from 44 political parties — including 25 new parties registered for this election. The other half of the candidate pool ran as independents.
Papua New Guineans selected their preferred candidates using a complicated voting system inherited from Australia known as the alternative vote. At the polls, voters rank their top three preferred candidates. If no candidate receives the absolute majority (50 percent +1) of first-round votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and his or her votes transfer to the remaining second-preference candidates (and so on).