O’Neill’s government loses ministers, Speaker and deputy PM in PNG vote

The Peter O’Neill-led coalition government partners were this weekend counting the cost from a series of defeats in the general election. Image: EMTV News

By Scott Waide in Port Moresby

With time running out before the official end of Papua New Guinea’s elections, partners of the Peter O’Neill-led coalition government are counting the casualties from election results all over the country.

Four senior ministers, the Speaker and the Deputy Prime Minister have all lost their jobs.

The Health Minister is also expected to follow suit.

Housing Minister Paul Isikel was the first to be excluded during second preference counts in Markham Open, losing to Pangu’s Koni Iguan.

Within 24 hours, news came from Tewai-Siassi that political novice Dr Kobie Bomareo had unseated Fisheries Minister and Deputy Leader of the ruling People’s National Congress, Mao Zeming. Bomareo was the third Pangu candidate declared in a space of two days.

Then, in a tight finish, a 30-year-old unknown, Renbo Paita, took down another PNC strongman, Speaker of Parliament Theo Zurenuoc.

The carnage continued.

Biggest upset
Mining Minister Byron Chan lost the Namatanai seat to Walter Schnaubelt. But in the biggest upset in the New Guinea Islands region, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion suffered an embarrassing defeat, beaten in the second preference counts by former MP Nakikus Konga.

Within minutes of Dion’s defeat, Facebook users were posting that the Communications Minister Jimmy Miringtoro had lost the Central Bougainville seat.

As heads of coalition members rolled all over the country, Health Minister Michael Malabag’s political life hung in the balance, slowly stifled by an ever expanding 7000 vote margin separating him from former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta in the Moresby North West race.

In Morobe, the home province of the Deputy Opposition leader, Sam Basil, voters went to the polls with a vengeance and rejected the PNC in five out of nine seats.

But Pangu ranks are further expected to be bolstered with the possible inclusion of Ginson Saonu who is leading in the Morobe regional count with a 20,000 vote margin separating him from former National Alliance “fullback” Luther Wenge.

The incumbent, Kelly Naru has also become one of many other MPs rejected at the polls. He is bearing the brunt of voter anger after his support of the PNC led coalition during the attempted vote of no confidence motion in 2016.

Serious contender trailing
In the Northern province, PNC’s David Arore, who expected to be a serious contender in the regional seat has been trailing on fourth place.

Arch political rival Gary Juffa, moved rapidly up the ladder within the first three days giving him a commanding 30,000 vote lead ahead of his nearest rival and wife of NCD Governor Powes Parkop, Jean Parkop.

While the losses stung the PNC, their numbers were at the weekend double those of Pangu. Both parties are working to woo independents with Pangu pushing the anti-corruption line while PNC was claiming “government stability”.

Scott Waide is the Lae bureau chief and began his career with EMTV in 1997 as a news and sports reporter and anchor. He has been a media professional for more than 19 years. EMTV News coverage of the PNG elections is being published by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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