By ZACHERY PER
THE leading candidate in the Kundiawa-Gembogl by-election has received just over 15% of valid votes – still way below the absolute majority of 24,834 votes – when the count was suspended after the 29th elimination last night, The National reports.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's People National Congress candidate and former minister Peter Waieng maintained his lead with 7,882 votes (15.87%).
His lead after 29 eliminations was closely chased by former agriculture minister and Chimbu politician Mathew Siune on 6,616 votes (13.32%).
PNG Democratic Party candidate Tobias Kulang, who did well at the start of the count last week was running third on 5,442 votes (10.96%) while People's Party candidate Paul Gend maintained his fourth place with 4,393 votes (8.84%).
Former Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Wagi Merimba was in fifth place with 4,348 votes (8.75%).
Others still in the race last night were Paul Moiwo with 3,286 votes (6.63%), William Gumayagl Ongugo on 2,960 (5.96%), Blaise Kal on 2,394 (4.82%), Alphonse Kawagle Palma on 2,241 votes (4.52%), John Naur Mangi on 2,167 votes (4.36%), John Tonar 2,167 votes (4.36%), John Kagl with 2, 039 votes (4.11%), Mark Philip on 2,024 votes (4.08%) and Peter Diniyagl 1,715 on votes (3.45%).
From a total of 52,378 ballots issued, 735 were ruled informal and 51,643 were allowed. But at the end of elimination 29 last night 1,976 ballots were exhausted.
From the 43 candidates running for the seat left vacant by the passing of Joe Mek Teine in April this year, 29 candidates who polled the lowest number of votes were eliminated and 14 are still in the race.
The elimination process continues today and a winner is expected to be declared this weekend.
Kundiawa open returning officer James Piapia thanked counting officials, scrutineers for candidates, police and everyone who played various roles for ensuring the process of the by-election went smoothly.
He urged candidates and supporters to respect the new electronic counting system and the Limited Preferential Voting system.