Papua New Guinea goes to the polls on Saturday with almost 3,500 candidates battling for just over a hundred parliamentary seats and control of what will be an unprecedented boom in funds as projects to develop natural resources start coming on stream. Voters hope the two-week-long election will end a prolonged political crisis which has left the South Pacific archipelago with two competing prime ministers for much of the past year after parliament backed Peter O’Neill, defying the courts which supported elder statesman Michael Somare. Analysts say it is impossible to predict a winner in a country where more than half of sitting lawmakers lose their seats at each election and where power goes to the leader who can cobble a coalition in post-election negotiations. “There are really two elections,” Australian National University Papua New Guinea specialist Sinclair Dinnen told Reuters. “The first is where the people vote. Then after the elections, we see the process of coalition formulation.” Adding to the uncertainty are the record number of 3,435 candidates from 46 political parties, all vying for just 111 seats in parliament.
Papua New Guinea: Australian help for Papua New Guinea election ‘unprecedented’ | ABC Radio Australia
Australian officials say they are providing an unprecedented level of help to Papua New Guinea as it prepares for this month’s general election. PNG is now gearing up for its general election after a tumultuous year in politics, stemming from the long-running leadership dispute between Peter O’Neill and Sir Michael Somare over who is the legitimate prime minister. But preparing for the election is not a task the country can handle on its own.
Papua New Guinea MPs have voted to declare a state of emergency in the nation’s capital after rogue police officers surrounded Parliament House. If adopted, the emergency rule would give increased powers to PNG’s police commissioner to arrest and detain. The leader of government business, Moses Maladina, put the motion yesterday at a special sitting of Parliament and it is expected to come into force today. The government also voted to reject the decision of three Supreme Court judges to reinstate Sir Michael Somare as the nation’s leader. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said cabinet would meet last night to prepare advice for Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio, who must approve the state of emergency. Mr O’Neill said the state of emergency would be extended to trouble spots such as the Southern Highlands and Hela province, site of a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.
Police in Papua New Guinea stormed the Supreme Court in the capital and arrested the nation’s top judge on sedition charges on Thursday, in response to its ruling that the prime minister held power illegally and should step down. On the day nominations closed for June elections, police arrested Chief Justice Salamo Injia after the court ruled former leader Michael Somare should be reinstated as prime minister. Somare and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill have been jostling for power since August 2011, when O’Neill took office after Somare was ruled ineligible to be a lawmaker after a prolonged absence from parliament due to illness. But the Supreme Court in December ruled Somare should be reinstated, and in another ruling this week the court said Somare should be the caretaker prime minister during the current election period.