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PNG poll violence claims more lives

Election chaoas has been so great that even Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta was denied a vote  

Staff and wires

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea -- At least two people were hacked to death and a policeman seriously injured after a group of armed men raided a police station in the latest wave of election-related violence in Papua New Guinea.

About 30 men with submachine guns raided a police station in Southern Highlands settlement of Tari early Wednesday.

The gunmen stole ballot boxes before freeing eight prisoners, police said, while two men were shot and hacked to death just meters away from the station.

The violence brings the death toll in the impoverished South Pacific nation's election to 23, prompting the deployment of military forces to quell unrest in the area.

Most of the bloodshed has centered on the five remote Highlands provinces, where tribal wars are common. The region has been declared a "fighting zone."

Protracted and chaotic

Voting in Papua New Guinea's general election began on June 15 and was due to end on June 29. But the lack of polling facilities, as well as widespread voting irregularities delayed the balloting for another two weeks.

Police reported massive fraud such as missing ballot boxes and papers, multiple voting, and thousands of 'ghost voters' on electoral rolls.

Despite the chaos the electoral commission said it was confident the make-up of the 109-seat Parliament will be in before August 5, as required under the constitution.

It is also pressing ahead with counting and has already declared results in 45 of the 109 seats.

However, some 3,000 candidates from 43 political parties have already contested the exercise, and are calling for fresh polls.

The move is backed by the local media, which has branded the exercise as a 'farce.'

"Stop this farce," The National Newspaper said in an editorial. "We are...aware of the enormity of the fraud that is being foisted on the people of the Southern Highlands province by thugs and criminals, often acting under the orders of those who present themselves as candidates."

The election is the seventh since Papua New Guinea's independence from Australia in 1975.

The South Pacific nation is rich in oil, gas, copper and timber but remains poor and under-developed, due to corruption, army mutinies and tribal wars over the past five years.


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