Goal of removing O’Neill galvanises PNG alliance

Papua New Guinea’s National Alliance party says it is confident of forming a coalition government when parliament resumes this week.

With the last bunch of seats still to be declared, the party is on course to emerge from PNG’s lengthy election as the party with the second most MPs, behind the ruling People’s National Congress party led by Peter O’Neill.

The PNC is on track to secure around 25 of the 111 seats in Parliament, far less than the 55-odd MPs it went to the election with.

Yet Mr O’Neill announced last week that the PNC was forming a coalition government with a few smaller parties, but this grouping did not appear to have anywhere near the 56 MPs needed for a majority.

The premature nature of this announcement was echoed on a formal scale on Friday when, with only 80 of parliament’s 111 seats declared, the electoral commissioner Patilias Gamato went to Government House to hand over the election writs. In the same setting, he invited the People’s National Congress to attempt to form government, a formality extended to the party with the most MPs-elect.

With a fifth of the parliament seats yet to be filled, the invitation met with dismay.

“The Electoral Commission must return all the remaining writs before it determines which party has return the most nominated and then it can advise the Governor-General to issue that letter of invitation to form government,” said former Chief Justice Sir Arnold Amet.

The invitation can make it seem like the PNC and its allies are a government-in-waiting. However this is not certain.

Another grouping claims it has the numbers to form a government.

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