Count set to Start Tuesday Afternoon

The final stage of the scrutiny process, the counting of verified ballot papers, is set to begin tomorrow afternoon.

All 249 ballot boxes have now been processed at the BRC Count Centre, with provisional ballots now being checked against the Referendum Roll before the counting begins.

Returning Officer John Sisiesi said the process had been orderly, accurate and transparent with nearly 100 scrutineers, international and local observers coming through the Count Centre to check every step of the process.

“All 34 Assistant Returning Officers have had their numbered ballot box seals checked, then opened with the contents checked and balanced: unused, spoilt and used ballot papers, and provisional and declarations ballots.

“In front of scrutineers, observers and the media, ballot papers have been placed face down and checked for the Presiding Officer’s signature, and then put into bundles of 100 and added to the mixing bin.”

Provisional and declaration envelopes are currently being checked against the whole roll through a computer look up system by a team of over 30 trained officials to ensure only enrolled voters can have their votes counted.

Chief Referendum Officer said only after all declaration and provisional ballot papers have been checked can the count begin.

“Voter secrecy is the key ingredient of a credible electoral process – and it has been the decision of the Commission that the Bougainville Referendum must be held to a high, internationally recognised standard,” Mr Claudio said.

“The vote will recognise the voice of all people of Bougainville – rather than by region.”

Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio acknowledged the high standard of work by polling officials across 829 locations.

“The smooth verification process, which is running slightly ahead of schedule, is a result of all materials being in order, and Count Centre officials are doing their job according to the process as well.”

The Commission has previously agreed that it will make a single announcement of the result once it is complete, and not release a progressive count.

“We’ll complete this final stage as quickly as possible, but as slowly as is necessary to ensure everything is by the book, and allows the scrutiny of observers, scrutineers and the media.”

Tomorrow the BRC Chair, Bertie Ahern, will arrive in Buka to observe the Count Centre and scrutiny process.