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WE THE BOUGAINVILLE REFERENDUM COMMISSION do hereby make the following statement regarding the conduct of the Bougainville Referendum 2019.
Number of votes for Greater Autonomy: 3,043
Number of votes for Independence: 176,928
Number of informal ballot papers: 1,096
We thank the two governments of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and the people of the Bougainville for their outstanding participation in this historic process – one part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. We recognise the Referendum has been a national event, and so also acknowledge and thank the people of Papua New Guinea.
As an electoral process that aspired to meet international standards, it is for observers, scrutineers and the media, and indeed the people themselves, to determine whether the conduct of the Referendum was inclusive, accessible, free and fair. We thank in particular scrutineers, and observers from here and overseas for bringing transparency and credibility to the process, and we look forward to their reports over the coming days and weeks.
However, as the mandated independent body appointed to conduct the Bougainville Referendum, it is our conclusion from what we witnessed ourselves throughout the process – through enrolment, polling and scrutiny – was an orderly process, following the laws and regulations provided, and was peaceful.We witnessed voting that was informed, free of fear and accessible.
Some of the numbers also tell an important story:
- The Referendum roll had equal numbers of women and men voting
- The Referendum roll had 25 per cent first time voters
- The voter turnout,of at least 85 per cent,was high when compared with international democratic electoral experience, and is the highest of any electoral process in Papua New Guinea
- The informal vote of 1,096 was low when compared with international democratic electoral experience and national elections.
We acknowledge the benefit of some new electoral practices for inclusive voting, including:
- Enrolment of Bougainvilleans in every province of PNG
- Display of the preliminary Referendum roll for public objections and scrutiny
- Postal voting for those travelling, sick or otherwise unable to access a polling place
- Provisional voting, for those not on the Referendum roll at their place of polling
- Out of country voting (in Solomon Islands and Australia)
- Special polling at hospitals, for people for with disabilities.
We are grateful for the resources, financial and human, provided to conduct the Referendum to this inclusive standard. These have been provided by the two governments, the electoral commissions of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, and the international community. The latter has been provided from the United Nations and Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
We thank the Chief Referendum Officer and staff of the Secretariat for their tireless work. We also thank the Returning Officer, the 34 Assistant Returning Officers, and the thousands of temporary workers who carried out their role in a determined way, to deliver a credible process to the people of Bougainville.
Many other organisations also contributed to the good conduct of the Referendum. The Bougainville Police Service, and their counterparts from the Regional Security Mission with police from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, together with support from the Royal PNG Constabulary, provided for good law and order, and secure transport of polling materials. We also thank PNG High Commissions in Australia and Solomon Islands, and acknowledge local service providers.
Finally, we thank the people of Bougainville living far and wide in Australia, Solomon Islands, outside Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, and of course here in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville – who have come out to have their say.
We wish the two governments all the best in taking forward the Referendum result through a process of consultation, and on to the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea for final ratification as part of the ongoing peace process.
On Friday, we look forward to returning the Referendum Writ to the Governor-General in Port Moresby.