This weekend’s national election in Papua New Guinea is a real grudge match between bitter enemies: Sir Michael Somare, the dominant figure in the nation’s politics since independence, and Peter O’Neill, the man who replaced him as prime minister under dubious circumstances. The nastiness of this rivalry is reflected in the cost of electoral corruption, which seems to have skyrocketed this cycle:
In a nation where cash handouts at election time are widespread, observers say the cost for first-preference votes has increased by as much as 30-fold.
“In some areas the going rate for a first-preference vote is 1000 kina (approximately $A500), and other areas in the highlands it’s as much as 3000 kina for a first-preference vote,” said Nicole Hayley, leader of the Domestic Election Observers group.
In the 2007 election, first-preference votes were being bought for 100 kina.
I wish there was some way to chart the rise and fall of these prices in real-time, so we could get a sense of how they respond to events like the release of early results or other political scuttlebutt. A canny citizen might want to hold off voting until the last possible moment, in the hopes that the campaigns will up their offers.
My prediction, by the way, is that O’Neill will emerge victorious amid accusations of rampant fraud. And Papua New Guinea’s toxic political climate will continue.
(Image via The Garamut, which you should follow for PNG election coverage)