DP83 The 2017 election in Papua New Guinea

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 83

By Terence Wood and Maholopa Laveil

July 2019

This paper draws on the Papua New Guinea Election Results Database alongside other data to study the 2017 General Election in Papua New Guinea. The paper shows that the 2017 elections suffered significant problems, even by the standards of other countries of similar levels of development. Amongst other issues, the paper finds worrying patterns of roll inflation in parts of the Highlands. In terms of election outcomes, we find some evidence that women candidates are becoming more competitive, although improvements are modest and trends uncertain. We also demonstrate that the relationship between candidate numbers and incumbent re-election, first found by David Hegarty in the 1980s still exists and is statistically robust. Finally, we conduct an in-depth study into the Limited Preferential Voting (LPV) system. We find LPV brought an increase in invalid ballots and a boost in women candidate competitiveness, but that many other anticipated changes appear not to have eventuated. However, importantly, in 2017 it appears some voters cast their second and third preferences along national lines as a protest vote against the Prime Minister’s party. Voting on national issues is thought to be rare in Papua New Guinea, and if LPV is facilitating it, the system may ultimately bring larger political changes, although this is far from guaranteed.

Wood, T. & Laveil, M. 2019, ‘The 2017 election in Papua New Guinea’, Discussion Paper No. 83, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Terence Wood

Terence Wood is a research fellow at the Development Policy Centre. His research focuses on political governance in Western Melanesia, and Australian and New Zealand aid.

Maholopa Laveil

Maholopa Laveil is the FDC Pacific Fellow at the Lowy Institute, seconded from the University of Papua New Guinea.