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While much has been written on the origins and development of the Bougainville conflict (1988–1997), as well as the peace process (1997–2005) and the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA), a comprehensive analysis of the complex arrangements for the referendum has not previously been published.* With the referendum due to take place on 23 November 2019, the Department of Pacific Affairs has published a new book by Anthony J. Regan analysing the legal, administrative and political issues arising from these arrangements.
In revealing the complexity of the referendum’s origins and arrangements, the book makes clear how these factors have contributed to misunderstandings about the referendum, not least the idea widely held by many Bougainvilleans that, if the referendum delivers a result in favour of independence, then independence will automatically ensue. In fact, the outcome is not binding on either the PNG National Government or the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
The book has a number of purposes, the first being to promote a better understanding of the arrangements for the referendum, while a second purpose is to consider what may be needed to ensure that the referendum is considered free and fair. The final purpose is to examine how the deferred referendum, as part of the long-term peace process, impacts on peacebuilding.
The book should prove highly relevant to the numerous policy makers in PNG, Bougainville, Australia, the UN and elsewhere who will be involved in the referendum and what follows. Set against a wide-ranging international background on referendums, the book will be useful for political scientists interested in voting phenomena.
*Reports published by the National Research Institute (NRI) as part of the referendum research project do not specifically deal with the complex arrangements for the referendum in Bougainville. The NRI report on referendum administration focuses on experiences elsewhere in the world.