Greater political stability in PNG is still a possibility

In past columns on the PNG national elections I have been extremely positive about some outcomes, suggesting limited preferential voting and the new laws on political integrity would provide the basis for more stable government. By Brian Gomez

Early election results are proving these hopes could be wrong.

The public have continued with their tendency in past elections to vote most sitting members of parliament out of office.

The exact number voted out is not known at this stage, but the casualty rate appears as high as it has been in the past, reflecting widespread public dissatisfaction.

I was also wrong to expect the first ever implementation of second and third preference votes would help incumbent MPs get re-elected.

Clearly if electors were unhappy with their parliamentary representative they were, in many cases, making a considered decision to give second and third preference votes to another candidate.

Even though most of the political parties have been much better organised to face the 2007 election, especially when compared with the situation in 2002, the public has decided to vote for many independent candidates, one of whom defeated former Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu after a distinguished 25 years in parliament.

At the time of writing it appeared Sir Michael Somare's National Alliance party would end up marginally ahead of the independents in terms of the number of seats it will hold.

This will return Sir Michael and the National Alliance to power and create history in the process - the first political party since independence to complete a full five-year term in office and then to win the subsequent election with the greatest number of seats.

Previously incumbent ruling parties have performed poorly at the polls.

What the likely results mean in a nutshell is that a large number of political parties could end up forming a coalition government. It is not clear if the dozen or so parties with only one or two seats in parliament will retain that privilege or choose to join the National Alliance or one of the other leading parties.

This is a possibility that cannot be overlooked and, in the unlikely event, that enough MPs do that, Sir Michael would be able to enjoy greater political stability in the coming years.

It looks likely the core members of the coalition, led by NA, would be Peter O'Neill's People's National Congress Party, Former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta's PNG Party and Pangu Party, minus its leader, Sir Rabbie.

Since these four parties will command about 40 seats in parliament another 15 MPs would be needed to give the ruling coalition a simple, working majority.

Despite my concerns about election outcomes, the country could indeed have a fairly stable and solid government if a dozen or so MPs leave the ranks of the 'independents' or desert parties with only one or two seats to join forces with one of the four leading parties. This could result in the greatest stability ever enjoyed in Waigani.

But we are getting well ahead of realities in making such assumptions. I am glad to be a rambling scribe rather than a political scientist!

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