Papua begins electoral process amid strong security measures

Sydney, Australia, Jul 4 (EFE).- Papua New Guinea elects between Monday and Jul. 22 its 118 parliament members, who will form the government, under strong security measures to prevent a repetition of the 2017 election violence, which left more than 200 people dead.

More than 10,000 police and military agents have been deployed in this remote country rich in natural resources with a long history of tribal clashes between its inhabitants, most of them living in poverty.

The Pangu Party of current Prime Minister James Marape and the People’s National Congress Party of former President Peter O’Neill, who resigned in 2019 over discontent following a controversial gas deal, are the favorites.

In the run-up to the elections, Papua had already registered incidents of violence, one of them in the town of Nipa-Kutubu, in the interior of the country, where a group of people burned the house of legislator Jeffery Komal on Thursday, The local Post Courier newspaper published Monday.

Two rival groups last month threw stones and set fire to the vehicles of the opposing party’s candidates in the town of Mt. Hagen, in central Papua, where 204 people were killed in the previous elections.

Then, the violence was partially linked to tribal conflicts, exacerbated by the electoral process, according to a report published by the Australian National University on the 2017 elections.

Elections in Papua could also mean a shift in parliament, where all members are currently men, if people elect some of the 167 female candidates, who represent 5 percent of the 3,625 applicants to occupy a legislative seat in the next five years, according to Australian network ABC.

Elections in Papua, which gained independence from Australia in 1975, are especially important in the Pacific after the signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands in April. This generated fears in Canberra and Washington due to the expansion of Beijing in this strategic region.

During their respective administrations, Marape and O’Neill have welcomed Chinese investment in Papua, one of the 10 Pacific countries with which China maintains bilateral relations. It is being included in a security, trade and cooperation pact that Beijing has negotiated without success. EFE


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