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Subject: 1999 TAPI and PUNDARI facts of war! now a union??

cardo stantzo
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Date Posted: Mon, Apr 02 2007, 04:24:15am



This discussion paper contains three studies relating to the 2002 National Elections in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Drawing upon firsthand observations and fieldwork experience, the authors focus on aspects of the elections in Enga, Southern Highlands and Simbu Provinces respectively. They each discuss the extent to which the elections were democratic, describe how election campaigns and polls were conducted, analyse ongoing or emergent trends and consider the implications of these for future elections.

Philip Gibbs – Democracy and Enga Political Culture

Nicole Haley – A Failed Election: the Case of the Koroba-Lake Kopiago Open Electorate

Abby McLeod – White Horse 27: the Electoral Campaign of Bari Palma



Enga is one of 20 provinces of Papua New Guinea. In this highlands province, during the recent 2002 elections there were 17 candidates for the provincial seat (covering the entire province) and 137 candidates for the five open seats. There were also 2180 candidates for the 327 local council wards. Many of the 43 registered political parties endorsed candidates. In this paper I focus on the national parliament contest.

The elections did not go well. It is an understatement to say that the common roll was “imperfect” (Post-Courier 6 June, 2002, p.1), or that the elections were “deficient” (Commonwealth Expert Group on Papua New Guinea’s Electoral Arrangements, 2002). Electoral Commission funds were short (Post-Courier 11 June, 2002, p.1) and in many places polls were in turmoil. The Prime Minister himself, after waiting nearly five hours to cast his vote, said: “This is more than a bungle. Someone should be hung for this” (Post-Courier, 18 June, 2002, p.1). Political commentator, Sir Anthony Siaguru, described the national election as a “debacle” and a “travesty” and said that the country needs to ask whether “the electoral process has been so seriously compromised because of a combination of disenfranchisement and manipulation that democracy in Papua New Guinea has been put at risk” (Post-Courier 28 June, 2002, p.11).

The plan for Enga Province was to have one-day voting on the Tuesday 25 June. This did not happen due to various factors, including the non-availability of ballot papers. The elections began a week later and were drawn out for two weeks in a drama involving hijacked ballot boxes, the bombing of voting papers beside the Wabag Police station and fatal shootings at one polling place (National 12-14 July 2002, pp 1-2; Independent 1 August 2002, p.2).

To what degree were the elections democratic? Democratic elections call for real competition between candidates, a choice between candidates and parties, freedom for people to consider alternative policies and a degree of confidentiality for voters’ choices. Dr Henry Okole in a commentary entitled “Democracy, Demo-crazy, or Demon-cracy?” questions whether competition, political participation and civil/political liberties were in fact present and whether “PNG is only masquerading as a democracy” (National, 1 October, 2002, p.13).

Results in Enga were declared as follows:

There were court challenges to all the results. Most were dropped or dismissed, but in November 2003, almost a year and a half later, court challenges for Wapenamanda and Kompiam-Ambumu are still unresolved. The challenge by the former sitting member Daniel Kapi against Samuel Tei Abel for Wabag has been upheld, but the dispute is still to be settled through the Supreme Court. Thus people in Wabag are not officially represented in parliament.

This paper seeks to shed light on what happened in the Central area near the provincial capital Wabag. I look at factors that impact on international standards of democracy and ask if “home-grown” Enga forms of political choice are emerging. One political scientist has noted evidence in the nearby Simbu Province, of “village or clan consensus based voting” (Standish 2002b:5). This study tries to ascertain the degree to which clan consensus based voting was present in Central Enga, and its strengths and weaknesses for promoting democracy in the Enga political process. The study is based on personal observation, discussions with election officials and other people, and two questionnaires administered to people in the lower Ambumu Valley, near Wabag (see Appendix). To preserve confidentiality, people’s names are often represented by A,B.C … N, M; clans by á,â,÷, and places by X, Y, Z.1


Here is an account from an Enga participant in the 2002 elections.

This morning at 5.30AM, I was awakened by sounds of cars and shouts from nearby houses. People were relaying the message from village to village that cars were bringing ballot boxes to polling areas. Five minutes later I heard two gun shots from A’s place. Then there was silence.

I went to the main road and met people going to polling areas to cast their votes. I walked along the road and while doing so heard a car coming at high speed. It stopped and B (a candidate) jumped out of the car holding a high powered gun and gave commands to crowds on the road to move to their respective polling areas and to leave the road and market areas empty. He then set off in the direction of Wabag.

I continued walking fast and encountered a police van full of policemen. Not long after, more police cars arrived followed by several other cars. Two ballot boxes were taken down from the car and brought to the polling area. I asked a young boy in one of the cars for the ballot boxes for my rest house. The young boy pointed to a truck with two boxes and nobody at the back of the truck. I jumped onto the truck and decided to turn back with the ballot boxes to my polling area. Five minutes later, I heard gun shots coming from X.

The cars did not move and the policemen whispered among themselves. I asked a policeman and he said they needed more security along the road to Y rest house. They feared C (a candidate) on the road to that polling area because there was tension between him and B (another candidate). They knew that the candidate would be on the road waiting for them. D (a candidate) came out of a tinted glass car with a pistol in his hand and looked around and gave a command for the cars to move. We went for about a half a kilometre and the truck stopped at the back of two police cars. The ballot boxes for my rest house were shifted to the police car with an open back. I also jumped onto that police car.

Approaching my polling area, I was asked by the a clan men on the car to take the ballot boxes to their area. I argued with them. I told them that my people must cast their votes using their freedom. When we reached the polling area, I told the driver to stop and brought the boxes to the polling area. E, a reserve policeman, helped me in the argument.

The tables were set for the polling to begin and the presiding officer gave an introduction to the crowd. Before the first person was called by the polling officials to cast his vote, F, an intending candidate suggested that “the table be turned down”, meaning that he would withdraw from contesting, and in exchange, everyone should give their votes to G (another candidate). The people refused, so F told his clansmen that he was still contesting and that they should give their votes to him.

When it came to voting I did not feel free, particularly for the vote for Councillor. This was because, there were three candidates for the Council seat who are very close friends of mine. One has worked with me and another is a relative. I would feel guilty if I gave my vote to one, and not the other two. Each of them thought that I would vote for them. My mind was not working properly now so I decided to leave.

I went and passed by the Y polling area. My name is in the roll book there too, so I knew I could cast my vote there as well if I wanted to. As I waited to hear my name called I noticed that names of small children under 16 years were on the common roll book. I was surprised to hear H’s 9 year old daughter was called and her mother went to cast the vote on the child’s behalf. I saw many others doing the same thing. I also noticed that only one person would go back and forth several times to cast votes when names of persons of a sub-clan were called. The persons whose names were called were nearby but they let others do it for them.

Many issues are raised in the this account:

• After many days of delay, people in Enga didn’t know when the polling would begin until it happened.

• Guns (including those held by candidates) were part of the scene.

• Police were intimidated

• Even with a police escort, ballot boxes could be taken to sites other than those assigned.

• “Turning the table” (everyone voting for only one candidate) was presented as an option, but the people in this case refused.

• The person giving the account did not feel free when it came to casting his or her ballot (there was no secrecy) – a common experience.

• Multiple voting was quite possible since his or her name was on the roll in different polling places and applying an ink mark to the voter’s finger was not practised in most of Enga (and the ink can be taken off with bleach).

• Some people let others vote in their name.

• There were many under-age people with names on the common roll.


There were 405,804 persons on the common roll for Enga province. The Electoral Office in Wabag received 473,000 voting papers. 406,831 papers were sent out to voting officials in the five electoral districts.2 An electoral officer has noted very few unused ballot papers returned from polling places throughout Enga. If this is true, then what happened with the papers that were left over? Some were burned but (as this paper will show) many remaining ballot papers were simply filled in and deposited in the polling boxes by candidates or their supporters.3

Electorate Number on common roll

Wapenamanda 77,735

Kompiam-Ambumu 73,581

Kandepe 48,362

Wabag 70,053

Lagaip-Porgera 136,073

Total 405,804

Table 1: Number of Persons on the Common Roll in the Enga Province

By contrast, according to the National Electoral Commission reports on the Commission’s website, there were 317,213 papers “allowed” (i.e. counted) for the provincial seat and 317,602 papers for the open seats. The 89,000 difference is, mainly due to the destruction and loss of ballot papers or ballot boxes.

According to the year 2000 census, however, there are 295,031 people in Enga Province. The legal voting age is 18, so about 55% of the population, or 162,000 people would be eligible to vote. The huge difference between those eligible to vote according to the census figures and the votes actually cast was noted in an article by Daniel Korimbao in the National entitled, “More ballots in Enga than total population.”

In a province where thousands of ballot papers were firebombed, and where candidates complained of some of their people not voting at all due to the shortness of the voting period (one day polling), this is an amazing result.” 317,213 ballot papers were counted for the provincial seat, in a province which, according to the 2000 census figures has a total population of 295,031 people: men, women and children (National, 30 July, 2002, p.2).

These results raise a number of questions. How could the common roll be inflated by 150%? How could the number of votes cast be inflated by 90%? Why did the Electoral Commission dispatch so many ballot papers? Was it simply because the common roll was inflated or were there other factors? It appears that the election results were predetermined to a large extent by the number of ballot papers distributed rather than the number of people eligible to vote.


Intending candidates try to attract votes using various strategies:

• establishing and maintaining a “base vote” with their own clansmen and women;

• establishing and exploiting tribal alliances through blood, marriage and trade links;

• establishing strategic alliances with other candidates and seeking to limit access to one’s base area by other candidates;

• attracting voters from other areas through rallies and speeches;

• attracting voters, particularly those from areas outside one’s base vote area through handouts: motor vehicles, money and sometimes cheques.

Intending candidates need the support of their own clan and hopefully the neighbouring clans that would normally support their group in exchange or warfare. This was easier to accomplish in the past and is still the case in more remote areas where “goods and services” are harder to come by. In areas where tribal fighting is common, whole clans look for means to create allies who have more young warriors, especially those who possess high powered firearms. Clans, particularly those without their own candidate, see elections as a chance to exchange votes with other clans who have more members employed in the public and private sectors. In some cases election alliances overshadow the traditional alliances maintained through intermarriage and pig exchange.

Clan unity is important, but not easy to maintain when people live along the main highway and have easier access to services. There, people have more freedom to decide for themselves and the clan has less influence over its members. For example, if fighting erupts, people living near the highway can more easily escape and seek refuge in other places, or if one is sick, close relatives can arrange transport to hospital. If there is more than one candidate from a clan, that is a sign of serious division and probable election defeat, with the likelihood of recrimination and even warfare.

Within the Sambeoko clan at Par in the lower Ambumu Valley, the Laikini sub-clan had two members standing for the open seat: Norbert Tanda and Titus Mendai. People had tried to point out how self-defeating it was to try to establish a base vote with two candidates from the same sub-clan, but neither would give way. Norbert Tanda and his supporters supported John Pundari for the Provincial seat, partly because Norbert’s mother is from Waialuni, Pundari’s mother’s clan. Furthermore, Pundari had given Norbert a job. Titus supported the sitting member Peter Ipatasa for the Provincial seat, partly to be different from Tanda, but also because he is from a section of the Sambeoko clan who live close to Ipatasa’s home territory, Irelya. Titus is a high school headmaster and many people in education support Ipatasa because of his past free education policy. Another incentive for some of the Ipiamuni sub-clan of Sambeoko to support Ipatasa was because Governor Ipatasa had given one of their members money to publish a book. The polling for the Sambeoko clan at Par ended in disaster with two men killed on polling day and a tribal fight which lasted four months, with sixteen people killed and many injured.

The situation at Irelya also presented a base vote problem for Peter Ipatasa, with himself and rival Kundpen Talyaga being from the same Apulini tribe.4 However, Ipatasa got the upper hand when the Sikita clan of Kundapen voted first. This gave the advantage to Ipatasa’s Talyulu clan because when time came for them to vote it was late in the afternoon and Ipatasa and his supporters ended up with the remaining voting papers.

Having established a base vote, a candidate must maintain it. John Pundari had difficulty in maintaining the base vote he had in 1997 in the Yampu area of the Lower Ambumu. The Aiyele clan had expected some sort of project from Pundari, since his grandmother is from their clan. A group of men travelled to Moresby before the election to ask Pundari for money or second-hand cars. They returned empty-handed and in retaliation they called Wambupi, their main meeting place, “Namba tu Irelya” (second Irelya - Irelya being Peter Ipatasa’s home). This was a clear indication that they would be giving their support to Ipatasa. Ipatasa seized the chance and came and gave a panda pingi (initial payment to initiate an exchange of valuables) to Siki Pyatoe because some of Ipatasa’s supporters had injured Siki in a stone-throwing incident near Irelya. Thus Ipatasa managed to establish some support in what was formerly a base vote area for Pundari.

Some candidates see the elections as an opportunity to establish alliances with former enemies. Consider the case of the Laita and Sambeoko clans in the Lower Ambumu. Most members of the Laita clan voted for Norbert Tanda for the open seat, and Pundari for the Regional seat. This was because many of the Laita clan are members of the SDA church, so they voted for their fellow church member, Pundari. In the vote for Kompiam-Ambumu Open, the Laita clan took the chance to heal relations with Tanda’s Sambeoko clan. In the late 1980s, the Laita clan had killed nine men from Sambeoko and lost five men themselves. Compensation had not been satisfactory for both parties. Secondary payments were required to establish a permanent peace settlement, so they saw the election as an opportunity for this. Their voting for Tanda was like compensation to help establish peace with the Sambeoko clan. Unfortunately, it has promoted an escalation in post-election fighting because, as noted above, after two men were killed at Par on polling day, most of the Sambeoko clan and the Laita clan are united in an election-related tribal fight against the Depau clan and their supporters.

Another strategy is to use decoy candidates to split the vote of a rival. For example, candidates for the Provincial seat may endorse candidates for the open seats. If there is a popular candidate for the Open seat campaigning also for one’s opponent in the race for the Provincial seat, then one might endorse a candidate in the neighbouring clan to be the candidate for the open seat in order to reduce that candidate’s influence. The decoy candidate may not stand a chance of winning, but by splitting the vote and acquiring votes for his sponsoring Provincial candidate he is assured of favours if the Provincial candidate should win. The case of Norbert Tanda could be an example of a decoy candidate luring the Sambeoko clan votes away from Ipatasa, who appeared to be getting more support from the Sambeoko clan in recent times. Rumours abound of candidates being bribed by other candidates so as to bring discord (yama nuu mandenge – literally, carrying an evil spirit). During his campaign, referring to such decoy candidates, Peter Ipatasa often warned people of tricksters and secret plotters in their midst (waa katengipi, yama nuu mandenge dupame kapapao ita naminatami).

Rallies and campaign speeches are another part of campaign strategy. In responses to the questionnaire we found that:

• all except one of the respondents had listened to political speeches.

• 28/33 said they found them “interesting”.

• 26/33 said they found them “convincing”.

• One man said that he found a candidate convincing because his speeches sound like a follow-up to the Catholic political awareness campaign.

• An older woman said she thought that what a candidate had said was true and honest: “You can tell from his face.”

• One of those unconvinced commented: “Speeches are cargo-cultic in scope and nature, especially crafted to win the hearts of the illiterate/uneducated.”


Unlike some Highlands Provinces, the Provincial Seat was the focus of attention in Enga, particularly the competition and the war of words between John Pundari and Peter Ipatasa.5 Ipatasa was the sitting member and Governor. Pundari had been member for Kompiam-Ambumu but chose to stand for the Provincial seat, claiming that he wanted to stop corruption in the governance of the Province. The Provincial seat is important because the incumbent normally becomes Governor, which puts him in a position of considerable power over Provincial and Local Level Government resources. Pundari accused Ipatasa of not supporting him in the formation of the new national government in 1999, and Ipatasa accused Pundari of being part of a plot to suspend the Provincial Government in February 2001. In 2001 while Pundari was a minister in the government, he invited the Prime Minister to visit his home area at Yumbalama. Ipatasa was there, and when Pundari came to present gifts to the visitors he began by giving a large healthy pig to the Prime Minister and a smaller blind pig to Ipatasa. The symbolism did not escape the notice of the large crowd.

Later, on 17 May, 2002 in Wabag town Pundari gave a speech which included the following:

At the last minute before the polling, you will be given some money in the night. This money in the form of K2.00 you can spend on tinned fish. This money is yours. You just eat it and give your vote free to John Pundari. [He is warning them against bribery.] John Pundari, Enga Regional! When Pundari wins, the sun in Enga will be bright for the rest of the time. Also, if you vote Pundari into the parliament, the whole nation will thank Enga for that. The nation indeed is thirsting for good leadership.

Five years in parliament is like five months. Those who enter with a black beard will be still the same by 2007 national election. Please, I ask you now to vote Mr. Pundari this time. If God does not bless Pundari’s hands to improve the standard of our living in Enga and the sun does not shine or if nothing happens then you can vote me out in the 2007 national election. Try Mr. Pundari now by casting your pure vote. This is the golden opportunity for the people of Enga. Your one second decision will make differences for the province and the nation.6

Pundari likes to promote his clean church-goer image. Nevertheless, he saw fit to give out cheques to village youth groups and church groups during the campaign. Where does one draw the line between bribery and generosity?

Ipatasa liked to promote his image as the “action governor.” His speech in Wabag town on 25 May, 2002, included the following:

I don’t make empty promises to my beloved people of Enga. What I say is done on the same day or the following day. For instance, if the Kompiam-Ambumu road maintenance does not start before the polling starts, you can call me a liar. All politicians are liars except me. Once, Mr Pundari also had a ground breaking ceremony and started a machine to maintain the Kompiam-Ambumu road but it had never took place as he said it would happen. That is why people have no faith in his leadership. People of Kompiam-Ambumu knew him as a Moresby man, whereas the whole province knows Ipatasa to be the only leader who is with the people who shares their joys and sorrows and burdens. People of Enga should know that Mr. Pundari is only interested in the task at the national level. He tricked the people of Enga by saying that he has his heart for Enga. The only leader in Enga you can trust is your action governor Peter Ipatas. I do things straight away. You can see my finger prints in every district.

Why is Mr. Pundari so concerned about my wives? I didn’t try to take his wife away from him! Well, people of Enga, don’t go deep into my private affairs. You can talk more about the services if they are not delivered to you. Mr. Pundari, please don’t judge me. Who are you to judge me? I fear God only for my sins. I do not judge you for your wrong doings. All of us are sinners. Let us not judge one another, let God alone judge each one of us. I know, I am taking more wives but I am on the other hand doing God a favour by delivering the basic services straight to His people. God chose men in the Old Testament times according to their good leadership qualities. He did not count their wives. Most of them had more than one wife. I am pretty sure that God really chose me and blesses my governorship in the province and with His help the province is prospering.7

Ipatasa has five wives and is reputed to have a life-style not in the best Christian tradition. In this speech one can see the emphasis on his accomplishments for the province and his attempts to belittle Pundari’s Christian image. Ipatasa is well known for giving handouts for projects and is known as the governor who “writes cheques on the ground” (yuu kaina seke pingi). In other words, he doesn’t even have to carry a cheque book, but will simply tell a group of people to come and pick up their cheque in Wabag the following week.

Another popular Provincial candidate and former governor, Jeffery Balakau, took a different approach. In Wabag on 14 June he argued that the Enga governor seat was his because it was bought by his brother Malipu’s blood.8 (His brother Malipu Balakau, the Regional Member , was assassinated on 30 June 1989.) He claimed that Malipu never lost the seat but was killed in office. He did not die from a sickness but was killed, so, symbolically, his blood spilled over the seat. Jeffery Balakau says that according to Enga tradition he should have the right to claim the seat because the law of blood allows that. A song composed by his supporters goes as follows: Keapanya bui loo wapali bui, taeyokome sambapae o wane mana lato lakapupa (The Kiap’s star [position] in Wabag, bought by blood, the children will be taught about it.)

During the election period, some candidates and their supporters also engaged in blatantly dishonest practices such as stacking the electoral roll, paying off police and electoral officials, removing bridges and intimidation backed up by firearms.9 Despite police escorts, cars bringing ballot boxes were hijacked and the papers taken. Knowing that they could suffer casualties if they started a fire fight, police chose not to resist. It is difficult to assess to what degree such tactics affected the outcome. Ballot boxes meant for some polling places such as Talemanda in the middle Ambumu Valley were intercepted and polling officials were forced to work the whole night signing ballot papers. When people came to vote the next day they found that the “polling” had already happened and they had little option but to accept the result. Word has gone around that the polling officials felt it was unfair that their captors did not even provide cigarettes or tea during the night!10


The responses to the questionnaires revealed four principal reasons for choosing a candidate:

• Clan, marriage or other personal ties

• Desire for material benefit or personal gain

• Personal qualities

• Religious reasons

None of the respondents mentioned party membership. Enga people show little interest in parties. Some commented “I don’t trust any party,” or “I have no interest in parties.” Many were critical of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), seeing it as the cause of economic hardship, but Ipatas of PDM was the only sitting member re-elected in Enga.

Clan consensus voting is perhaps an ideal but is not widely practised at present in the Lower Ambumu area. In areas closer to the provincial capital, if candidates can convince a whole clan to unite behind them they are indeed fortunate. Perhaps a haus line (extended family) or close relatives will unite in their support, but that might be all he can hope for.

Rather than clan consensus, decision making appears to take place more at a family or even individual level, based on three principal questions:

• What is my advantage in voting for N?

• What will be the cost of not voting for N?

• How can we as a clan vote for several candidates as an insurance for the future?

Behind these questions lie several issues. What happens if someone gets sick? Who will come to our aid in a tribal fight? Who will give a paying job to members of my family? Who will help me with transport if I need it? How can I travel safely through enemy territory? In the best of cases the “bunch of individuals living within clan boundaries” will realise that strength lies in numbers and they will cooperate in finding a solution to questions such as these. In the worst case someone simply points a gun or a knife at the electoral officials and instructs them how to fill in the voting papers.

The members of the Mulyao clan living near Par in the Lower Ambumu were “free” because they didn’t have their own candidate. They have several strong leaders with their own interests and these leaders influenced the clan to divide their votes three ways. The Lakoneme subclan voted for Pundari in the Provincial poll because Henry Mendai, one of their leaders, is Pundari’s campaign manager, and because one of Pundari’s brothers is a Mulyao clan member. Henry is a contractor for road and building projects and hoped that if Pundari won he could secure the lucrative contracts that in recent times have been the preserve of other groups such as Ipatasa’s Panda Construction Company. The Lakoneme subclan also voted for Henry as their council candidate. Another Mulyao subclan voted for Jeffrey Balakau in the Provincial poll because their leader was a friend to Balakau’s older brother. Two other Mulyao clan leaders and their followers supported Peter Ipatasa in the Provincial poll.

After the voting at Rakaposa, the Mulyao meeting place, there were many ballot papers left unmarked, so they were taken to a house where one of the leaders demanded 200 votes for Jeffrey Balakau, 200 for Peter Ipatasa, and the remaining papers could be marked for John Pundari. Knowing that the leader making the demands and his sons were men not to be messed with, the rest complied.

The Mulyao strategy shows how individual male leaders in a clan could get their way without the consensus of the clan. Strong-willed individuals could go contrary to these leaders, but they would need to depend on their own resources in future rather than the patronage of the leader and support of other clan members. Thus, individuals may have their own strong opinion, yet, most people feel the pressure to take the good of the clan, sub-clan, or haus lain (extended family) into account when making choices.

The voting figures in Table 2 show voting patterns for the Provincial Seat in the 35 boxes counted (out of a possible 80) in the Kompiam-Ambumu electorate.11 In most polling places the vote is shared by several candidates indicating that there was little clan “consensus” since many polling places are attended by just one clan. However, in eight polling places (nos. 11, 13, 15, 18, 19, 24, 25, 34) one candidate received all or nearly all the votes. There could be several reasons:

• Leaders could have convinced people to “turn the table” and voluntarily give all their votes as a bloc to one candidate. This might happen at the polling place which is the home of that candidate or of a candidate for the Open Seat who is supporting him.

• Ballot boxes could have been hijacked and the papers filled in by a candidate or his supporters.

• People could have voted under duress.

All three scenarios occurred in the Enga elections.


Democratic principles call for freedom of the individual to vote and some confidentiality. Many people had no freedom to vote because they did not receive ballot papers. Papers had to be flown to isolated areas by an overworked army helicopter. Governor Ipatasa wanted to hire another helicopter using Enga government money, but fearing political interference, Pundari opposed that option. Thus people in Keman, Kaimanda, Pulupais, and most of the Wapi District never received ballot papers and boxes. People from Laialama walked for several days to bring in the ballot boxes after the helicopter failed. At one point the boxes with papers had been delivered to isolated Yengesa, but the polling officers were still in Kompiam with no way of getting to Yengesa. The ballot boxes at Yengesa were never picked up. In other parts of the Kompiam district, such as Lenganasa, Yawalimanda Wenikosa, Kaipotesa Lyaimanda, Lengeme, and Aipanda, people did not receive ballot papers because the bridges on the road had been destroyed or the ballot papers had been hijacked.

It has already been noted that only 35 out of 80 ballot boxes were counted in the Kompiam-Ambumu electorate. As can be seen in Table 3, more than half the ballot papers assigned were not counted, because they were destroyed during fights in the polling, or the helicopter was unable to carry boxes or officials to their destination, or papers being taken by road were hijacked, transport could not be arranged to pick up the completed papers, or when the helicopter arrived, the boxes were no longer in the assigned places, people having attempted to carry the boxes to Wabag.

Apart from the Wabag town area, there is little confidentiality in voting. Voters are normally required to call the name of the persons they are voting for. Candidate’s supporters are close by to listen, or to “watch people’s mouths”. With so much invested in food and money, candidates and their supporters want to make sure that people vote for those who have given handouts. They want to see a person mark a cross or call out a name. Some people stayed away from the voting because they had accepted handouts from several candidates and feared the wrath of a candidate and his supporters.


Women are often in a difficult position because they marry into a clan from other areas. Often a woman will want to vote for her close relative, even though it might not be the choice of her husband’s family. A woman from Par said how her husband has three wives and he had received money from a candidate and shared it with one wife. So on polling day when her husband went to claim the voting papers for his entire family she wrested some papers from his grasp and voted for her choice. When her husband wanted to beat her she told him that she “has a mouth too”. She was referring both to her right to voice her opinion, and that she had a mouth to “eat” the election handout.12

Several women at one Lower Ambumu booth refused to vote at all because they had not received handouts from any candidate. One young woman said, “Pundari’s supporters did not share what they were eating, like betel nut and cigarettes. They thought I would just follow their intentions as if I were their slave. Ipatasa’s supporters thought that I was for Pundari so they never talked or came close to me. I was really angry with them so I just refused to vote for any of them.”13

Other women decided not to vote because they were afraid of the consequences. Most of the nurses at Yampu hospital did not vote because they were afraid of what the local young men might do if they voted for an unpopular candidate. One expressed her concern as follows:

The fear was especially on whom to vote for in the Council election. Councillor candidates were from the same communities and if you vote for one, the other would not like you and your family because he would think that you favour the other and not him. If there had been a place for secret voting, that would have been fine but our right to mark a leader was not allowed by our fear in that situation.14

Another woman from Par told of her failed attempt at avoiding having to vote:

I was really worried. My brother had spent a lot of money and pigs in supporting A. But I felt indebted to B. So as the elections approached I was really worried. If I gave my vote to that other candidate, how could I go to my brother for help in the future? So I decided not to vote at all. I gave the excuse that my child was sick and I had to stay back to care for him. The polling started in the morning, so later in the afternoon I decided to go to see what had happened. However, just as I arrived I heard them calling the name of my family. I pretended not to hear, but they came and got me and forced me to go and get the voting papers for my family. I was afraid, so I took the ten papers and gave them to the presiding officer to fill in for me. As I went home I felt afraid and angry. I know my vote is power, yet I felt powerless. During the campaign I was interested but now I don’t care anymore.15


One way to avoid alienating candidates is to vote more than once. The principal rationale for this is to establish alliances with other clans so as to receive their support in future elections, or to “cover the field” in case another candidate wins.

This year the only limit to the number of votes was the supply of papers. Hence, as shown by the Mulyao clan (above), clan leaders and some supporters met after the regular polling to decide how to split the vote on the remaining papers. To give another example, the Laita and Kali clans voted at Wakumale. As happened in many places the voting was not complete by nightfall. The Laita clan had voted first and the Kali second, thus many of the Kali clan had not had a chance to vote. So the unmarked papers were shared between the two clans, in order for the leaders of the clans to decide which candidate to vote for with those remaining papers.


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