PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 25) - Fifty-five is the magic number on the minds of political parties as their henchmen crisscross the country to woo newly declared members of parliament to join them.

[PIR editor’s note: The 55-seat target would provide a majority of the 109-seat Papua New Guinea parliament.]

The ruling coalition led by the National Alliance Party (NA) drew first blood yesterday morning when it whisked independent Kokopo MP-elect Patrick Tammur and Rabaul MP and Melanesian Liberal Party leader Dr. Allan Marat to Wewak, East Sepik Province in the Government-owned Kumul aircraft.

Angoram MP and Public Enterprise, Information and Development Minister Arthur Somare was on hand at the Government Flying Unit at Port Moresby’s Jacksons Airport after 9 a.m. yesterday to ensure the two East New Britain MPs got on the plane.

Mr. Tammur and Marat did not turn up at a planned meeting in Port Moresby on Tuesday with Lae MP and New Generation Party (NGP) leader Bart Philemon and were accompanied to Wewak yesterday by NA Cabinet ministers Paul Tiensten, Michael Laimo and newly declared Vanimo Green MP-elect Belden Namah.

Another group of MPs, led by newly declared independent Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather, were waiting in Madang to be flown by helicopter to Wewak.

NA’s tally of declared MPs rose to 14 yesterday following the declaration of Mr. Namah, John Hickey (Bogia) and Miki Kaeok (Wapena-manda).

Movements by Independent MPs, who totaled 11 yesterday following the declarations of Charles Abel (Alotau), David Arore (Ijivitari) and Jim Simatab (Wewak), could decide the formation of the next government.

As at 9 p.m. yesterday, 52 out of the 109 seats in Parliament had been declared with Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen indicating that he will advise the Governor-General tomorrow on which party to invite to form government.

The rivals of NA led by Moresby North-west MP and PNG Party leader Sir Mekere Morauta and Mr Philemon yesterday said while NA continued to lead in declared MPs, putting together the required 55 MPs to form a government coalition was a long process.

They said they were in discussions with all political parties except NA and had the support of 25 MPs including independents, who will all be heading to Lae, Morobe Province, soon to camp.

"Though NA ended up with the biggest number (of MPs), there is no guarantee that it will form the government and we are here to offer to Papua New Guinea the alternative," he said.

In the press conference were Sir Mekere (PNG Party), Anglimp-South Wahgi MP Jamie Maxtone-Graham (PNG Country Party), Henganofi MP Dr Banare Bun (Christian Democratic Party) and Tari MP Tom Tomiape (Rural Development Party).

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