Voting to elect a new parliament in Papua New Guinea began on Monday.
A total of 3,625 candidates are in the fray for a five-year term in the 118-seat parliament. The elections will be held through July 22. The official results are expected next month.
Around 5 million voters will cast their ballots at 9,905 designated polling stations comprising 11,066 polling booths set up across the four regions of the island nation – Highlands Region, Mamose Region, New Guinea Islands Region, and Southern Region.
The polling started early today in 15 provinces.
Simon Sinai, Papua New Guinea electoral commissioner, said: “We aim to complete polling as soon as possible for counting to start and for election writs to be returned by July 29.”
Population spread across the island nation with tough terrain, frail communication and lack of facilities make the elections one of the most challenging issues in the country of around 9 million people.
“July 29 was the deadline for all writs to be returned and it cannot be delayed,” he said, according to daily the National.
The island nation has had only 111 parliament members but seven seats were added to the parliament after seven new districts were created recently.
Marred by ethnic and political violence, around 28 deaths and several injuries were reported since May when the election campaigning started in the country.
Of the total candidates, 167 candidates are women which makes it less than 5%. The outgoing parliament, elected in 2017, has no female lawmakers.
Only seven women have served as lawmakers since the independence of the country in 1975.
Incumbent Prime Minister James Marape and former leader Peter O’Neill are frontrunners as around 50 parties are in the electoral fight.