CORRUPTION watchdog Transparency International PNG has condemned proposed changes to election laws describing them as “undemocratic and unconstitutional”.
TIPNG is concerned about the proposed increase in election petition fees from K1,000 to K20,000, the increase in nomination from K1,000 to K10,000 and the campaign period being reduced from eight to four weeks.
TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens (pictured) condemned the proposed changes which will be tabled in parliament in January.
The government wanted the changes to be approved so that they will come into effect in time for the 2017 National Election in May-June.
Another change proposed to the election law by the National Executive Council is the increase in local level government nomination fees from K200 to K1,000.
“The democratic rights of all Papua New Guineans will be damaged if proposed legislative changes to election laws are enacted by Parliament,” Mr Stephens warned.
“TIPNG sees the proposals as undermining the principle of equality for all. They will severely reduce the rights of citizens to participate in future elections.”
Mr Stephens said there has been national concern expressed at news of the proposed tenfold increase in the nomination fee for intending candidates from K1,000 to K10,000.
“The laws of PNG must not be available only to those with cash. We must protect the rights of all citizens regardless of their access to cash,” said Mr Stephens.
“The right to stand for public office is enshrined in Section 50 of the National Constitution and should be protected so as to ensure equal participation in our democracy.
“Previous governments’ attempts at increasing the fee have been rightly challenged by the courts as being unconstitutional,” Mr Stephens said.
TIPNG said it is particularly concerned by the proposal to impose a K20,000 fee for filing election petitions.
Mr Stephens said this created a barrier for citizens wishing to demand justice during elections.
TIPNG called on the National Executive Council, Parliament, PNG Electoral Commission and all arms of government to insist on the protection of citizens’ rights to participate equally in free and fair elections both as voters and as candidates.