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SLUG: 2-291131 P-N-G Elections









INTRO: In Papua New Guinea, four people have reportedly been killed and many more injured, as the troubled Pacific island nation struggles to hold its seventh general election since gaining independence from Australia 27 years ago. V-O-A's Alisha Ryu has details.

TEXT: Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Mekere Morauta (PRONO: meh KAY ray mah RAU tah) has called the two-week general election the most important in the country's bid toward democracy and political stability.

Almost three thousand candidates from 43 political parties are vying for a seat in the 109-seat Parliament. The prime minister is also facing tough competition for his seat in Parliament from 30 opponents - including all five of his predecessors.

But since polls opened Saturday, voting irregularities including missing ballot boxes and papers - have been reported in almost every district in Papua New Guinea. The election has also been marred by deadly violence.

On Tuesday, two men were killed near the remote village of Mount Hagen 510 kilometers northwest of the capital Port Moresby after fighting broke out between supporters of rival candidates. There are now unconfirmed reports that two possibly three - more people may been killed in Mount Hagen.

Political analyst James Chin in Port Moresby says election-related violence has become a regular feature of politics in Papua New Guinea because the corrupt system rewards only those who win at the polls.

/// CHIN ACT ///

This political system is a winner-take-all situation. So, if your candidate wins you can expect a lot of goods and services to flow from your member for the next five years. If your member doesn't get in, it means you will be cut off government service for the next five years.

/// END ACT ///

Late last year, the country's Parliament did pass legislation to make the current electoral system more proportionally representative. But the law does not go into effect until the next general election in 2007.

Papua New Guinea is a mineral-rich country but remains desperately poor. Its development has been held back for years by rampant corruption, riots, army mutinies and tribal wars.

Officials say it may be another month before election results are announced as voting counts trickle back from remote and inaccessible areas where many of the country's five million people live. (Signed)


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