Early election movement in PNG

PROTESTORS in Port Moresby will call for an early election today as Papua New Guinea’s political stalemate between the groups led by Sir Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill continues.
Early election movement in PNG Early election movement in PNG Early election movement in PNG Early election movement in PNG Early election movement in PNG

In a swipe at governor-general Michael Ogio's decision to swear in Somare's chosen cabinet ministers, the O'Neill coalition used its overwhelming numbers in parliament for more fun and games yesterday.

A parliamentary vote consequently stripped Ogio of his position and handed the governor-general role to speaker Jeffery Nape.

Francis Marus was appointed as the new speaker. Interestingly, Marus was born in the Somare homeland of East Sepik but was raised in the West New Britain province.

Each camp also has its own appointed police commissioner, however the police have been admirably neutral this week during the political crisis.

But perhaps the greatest demonstration of leadership this week could come from activist Noel Anjo.

According to local radio he has planned a protest today to demand the dissolution of parliament and a call for general elections.

A road block to calling an election is that the twice-delayed budget still needs parliamentary approval to free up the funds necessary for the scheduled election in mid-2012.

But scheduled elections are enough of an anxious prospect for many PNG politicians and some members of parliament might do whatever they can to ensure that an early election is avoided.

On Monday the Supreme Court found that O'Neill was unlawfully appointed as PM by parliament in early August while Somare remained on extended medical leave.

While there is a prospect that MPs who defected from the previous Somare government would return because of the court outcome, some commentators view that Somare has not returned to Parliament House yet because he lacks the necessary numbers.

Ultimately both factions are not seen as a major risk to the mining and mineral exploration companies in PNG in terms of policy.

This is despite some controversial amendments to resource ownership laws flagged by the O'Neill coalition's mining minister Byron Chan in August, as Chan backed down from such changes in more recent months due to pressure from O'Neill.

But there is a possibility of unrest in the highlands, which would be of most concern to the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project, as the O'Neill coalition has MPs from key highlands seats.

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