EC requests funds for recount

The Electoral Commission has put in a request for funds to be allocated for the court ordered recount in the Central Bougainville seat.

Commissioner Patilias Gamato is out of the country but has submitted a budget request to the Chief Secretary, Isaac Lupari, who is also the chairman for the Inter-Departmental Election Committee (IDEC).

A budget has been drawn up and given to the IDEC, who will liaise with Treasury and Finance to allocate funds for the recount exercise.

Given the timeframe ordered by the National Court for the recount to be carried out, Commissioner Gamato has requested for funding to be made available as soon as possible.

On 30 January, the Waigani National Court ordered the recount after it was satisfied the Electoral Commission, through the returning officer, failed to accord a request provided under the organic law which was raised by runner-up Sam Akoita’s scrutineer prior to declaration.

That recount must commence before March 5 and should end on or before 17 March.

The results must be presented to court before March 23.

The court had found that Akoitai’s scrutineer, who was refused entry into the counting room prior to declaration, requested for a recount which was ignored by the returning officer, who went ahead and declared Fr Simon.

This request was done under section 170(1)(2) of the organic law. That provision allows for the candidate with the second highest votes to request for a recount if the number of votes does not exceed 0.25 percent of the number of votes polled by the candidate who collected the highest votes.

After the 19th elimination which saw the exclusion of Jimmy Miringtoro, Fr Simon Dumarinu polled 7,285 while Akoitai had 7,277 votes, a difference of eight.

The RO admitted during trial that she was not aware of that provision and also stated in her affidavit that she did hear the request for a recount but ignored it.

The trial judge said declarations are one of the most important duties of a returning officer and they must also inform candidates of their rights to request a recount in such circumstances, especially with the difference in votes in this case where chances of human error were high.

Sally Pokiton