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Papua New Guinea to finalise Bougainville general election vote count


Papua New Guinea to finalise Bougainville general election vote count

Photo: Reuters/ Melvin Levongo

Vote counting for the presidential and parliamentary elections in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, is scheduled to end today.

Elections ran from August 12 until September 1, with a three-week timeline implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ishmael Toroama—a former commander of the Bougainville revolutionary army—has led consistently with progressive support thus far and will likely be declared the winner today.

The winner will be tasked with negotiating Bougainville’s terms of separation from Papua New Guinea, after the autonomous region voted overwhelmingly for independence in a non-binding referendum last year. The negotiations threaten Papua New Guinea’s centralised rule, with other regions also seeking greater autonomy from Port Moresby. The status of the shuttered massive Panguna copper mine—the catalyst of the 1990s civil war—remains a pivotal unresolved question, as legal ownership and environmental concerns remain hotly contested.

Expect the status of Panguna to feature prominently in the negotiations and constitute a potentially major roadblock. The winning candidate will also face the task of creating a viable economy for the autonomous region, where younger voters prioritise the development of tourism and fishing industries. Toroama has pledged to build the newly-independent nation based on the principles of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which calls for a solid legal environment, government transparency and dedication to human rights.

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