PNG all shook up by Elvis ghost voters

 
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PORT MORESBY, Mar 5 (Reuters) The late Elvis Presley plans to be a ghost voter at the 2007 national elections in the jungle-clad South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea -- if you believe the nation's electoral rolls.

In 2006 almost half of Papua New Guinea's 4.9 million registered voters were regarded by the electoral commission as ghost voters and did not exist.

The commission has been trying for a year to update voter registration ahead of June 30 elections, but admits voter rolls in remote, rugged highland electorates remain vastly inaccurate.

Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen said ghost voters remained a problem with several Elvis Presleys, the US rocker who died in 1977, registering to vote, alongside a handful of Tom Jones, and a couple of kings and queens.

As of March, the country's five highland provinces have voter registrations ranging from 116 percent to 132 percent, said the commission in its voter analysis received by Reuters today.

Trawen said some politicians were behind the false voter registration, warning that unless the rolls were corrected the commission may declare a failed election in some provinces.

''I have assured the nation on numerous occasions that the roll should be ready before the nation goes to the polls in June and I am steadfast on my assurance,'' he told reporters yesterday.

Trawen said five electorates had corrected voter rolls.

Most of PNG's 5.1 million people live a subsistence lifestyle in the jungle highlands, where tribal warfare, sorcery, crime and political corruption are rife. To be elected to parliament is a guarantee of a better life in the capital Port Moresby.

Elections in PNG have been marred by violence and corruption.

Armed political gangs hijacked the 2002 election in the mountainous interior, killing opponents and destroying ballots boxes, forcing the election commission to declare six seats null and void and reducing the size of parliament to 103 seats.

REUTERS AKJ SSC1223

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