By STEPHANIE ELIZAH
COUNTING for the North Bougainville by-election began at midday yesterday at the United church building in Buka town under tight security by the Bougainville police service, The National reports.
The counting was officially conducted by the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner and North Bougainville by-election returning officer Reitama Taravaru.
In his opening remarks, Taravaru urged the officials to do good work so that the result "is accepted by all parties".
He thanked the people of North Bougainville for the peaceful polling.
A crowd of curious onlookers and scrutineers gathered at the church observed in silence as the first batch of ballot papers from the Atolls and Nissan constituencies were counted.
At first count, candidates Lauta Atoi received 119 votes, second was Dr Joseph Vilosi on 97 votes and Taehu Pais on third with 36 votes.
The result was from 265 ballot papers counted of which 258 were valid votes.
The second counting began immediately last night with preliminary indications expected to unfold later today.
"Despite the late start to counting, we will finish on Friday because there are not many ballot papers to count," Taravaru said.
He attributed the number of votes to the poor turnout of voters at polling sites last week.
"Not everyone turned up for voting mainly because many voters believed that the candidate who wins this by-election will not have enough time to deliver impact projects before the national election in 2012," he said.
He said counting was to have started on Monday but counting officers needed to be paid their allowances as well as undergo training on counting.