A referendum is a vote by the people to decide on a singe political issue. It is a way to inform and make decisions about very important issues. In Bougainville, the BPA calls for a referendum on, “Bougainville’s future political status,” to be held in any case, no later than June 2020, which is 15 years after the first sitting of the House of Representatives.
A referendum is like an election, but instead of voting for a person/candidate/party, people choose an ‘option.’ That option or options will be on a ballot paper. People will choose the option they want by marking that option on the paper.
Holding a free and fair referendum is not easy. Referendums can cause conflict, especially where there are already ethnic, religious, or other kinds of differences between people. One danger is that the result can leave the ‘losing side’ feeling like the outcome causes them serious disadvantage. In the past 25 years, violent conflict has occurred after independence referendums- for example in Timor-Leste and South Sudan. Having clear arrangements for the referendum and spreading awareness and understanding of these arrangements among the voters will help to avoid conflict.
In preparing for the Bougainville Referendum it will be important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages that can flow from the referendum, learn from experience of other countries and do everything possible to minimize the chance of serious problems occurring during the referendum and afterwards.