More Than 4,000 Plan To Contest For 109 Seats In PNG Elections

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Incumbent O’Neill government challenged by National Alliance, allies

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 7, 2012) – Next month’s general election in Papua New Guinea (PNG) could see more than 4,000 people chasing 109 seats in Parliament compared with about 2,800 in 2007, the Electoral Commission has revealed.

The director of the Papua New Guinea’s Institute of National Affairs, Paul Barker, says it is no surprise that there are a large number of candidates signing up for next month’s general election.

Barker said in a radio interview recently there was a significant amount of frustration over the way politicians had been running the country.

Gaining political office in PNG also carried a lot of status and was financially rewarding.

"It’s almost sort of seen to be a passing of age exercise to come along and have a go, people are often encouraged to do so by their own local communities," he said.

"By and large you are seeing a lot of people who may not have a lot of money to start with becoming quite a bit more affluent during their term in office."

The Electoral Commission is accepting nominations until May 18.

[PIR editor’s note: In the interest of good governance and fair elections, government employees have been reminded in New Ireland, and elsewhere in the country, that if they plan to contest the elections, they must resign and vacate their positions by the day of nominations. Vehicles, equipment and other assets held by potential candidates are also to be returned to their respective offices in order to avoid abusing government resources.]

The contestants, however, have coalesced into two major rival camps – one containing incumbent Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah and Treasurer Don Polye.

The other is led by deposed prime minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and his National Alliance party.

Sir Michael is expected to team up with Pangu Pati, Peoples Party and the People National Assembly.

The O’Neill-Namah-Polye combination have a headcount of 68 sitting lawmakers in total.

O’Neill’s People’s Congress party has 25 MPs, Namah’s Papua New Guinea Party has 21 and Polye’s Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party has 22.

Somare, who was ousted after missing three consecutive sittings of parliament last year while he was hospitalized in Singapore, has endorsed 89 candidates.

He said although he had thought of retiring from politics, he had decided to prove to his rivals that his East Sepik people still wanted him in parliament.

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