DP43 The three political economies of electoral quality in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 43

By Terence Wood

September 2015

This paper discusses electoral quality in the Melanesian countries of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. Drawing on a range of qualitative and quantitative evidence it argues that the electoral malpractice the countries experience is a product of three interacting political economies. The first of these is a national political economy which incentivises Members of Parliament in both countries to neglect — but not, at the national level, actively attempt to capture — electoral process and systems. The second political economy is an international one, which affords international actors some power, albeit limited, to serve as a countervailing force against national-level neglect of electoral quality. The third political economy is more localised, and based around the balance of power within constituencies, communities and also provinces. Thanks to weak national systems there is considerable scope for actors to engage in malpractice at these levels, although the scope for cheating can sometimes be restricted when power is balanced between local actors. Also, path dependency causes electoral violence to vary considerably between different parts of PNG.

Wood, T. 2015, ‘The three political economies of electoral quality in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands’, Discussion Paper No. 43, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Karen Downing

Karen Downing is Research Communications Coordinator at the Development Policy Centre.