Three major parties have emerged as frontrunners to form the next government in Papua New Guinea with their party leaders eager to be next Prime Minister.
These are current coalition leader PANGU, headed by incumbent Prime Minister James Marape, opposition leader Belden Namah’s PNG Party and the People’s National Congress led by former prime minister Peter O’Neill.
These leaders and the parties have invested heavily in their campaign and candidates for next month’s general election. They are using strategic campaigning including social media outreach to network with supporters in the rural areas.
It is always a numbers game.
The party that wins the most seats gets the invite to form the next government with its leader the most likely Prime Minister.
But politics in PNG is fluid and smaller parties with critical numbers often hold sway over formations of government.
Eleventh hour horse trading in the past has always featured prominently with the formations of government and smaller parties would also be riding shotgun with the bigger parties.
If anything, this is a three-way horse race with each party trying by any means on the campaign track to derail the other, even to the extent of attacking opponents, setting fire to their posters, and burning their properties.
All three leaders have been hot around the country, shopping their candidates to the voters, selling policies and even discrediting other parties, bringing in tension along the way.
PANGU’s James Marape is confident of returning to form government in the next Parliament and says he will step down if otherwise.
“I am taking the government formation to Wewak and taking all members who win and we will form the government there,” declared Marape.
Pangu is banking on 75 candidates for this election and Marape has travelled over four provinces to support their candidates.
Vocal opposition leader Belden Namah has also openly put up his hands to become Prime Minister after 15 years on the other bench.
“I am serious in the business to be Prime Minister of PNG after this election,” said Namah, who is leader of the PNG Party, which has endorsed a total of 50 candidates.
Ready to lead
Namah added he had never raised his hands for the role in respect of late Sir Michael Somare but now he was ready to lead the country forward.
Another strong contender is former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, leader of the People’s National Congress party, who has fielded 95 candidates contesting various seats across the country.
O’Neill has made it clear that the PNC party is ready to return to power.
He reportedly said that he and the PNC party was poised to return to government and “rescue” the country.
He said: “The new government needs to work harder… with a clear mandate to a political party with policies to deliver to the people and the country.
“To date, only PNC party has put [out] our policies, which are aimed at delivering basic services to our people and improving living standards.”
Other credible leaders
But while all eyes are on Marape, Namah and O’Neill, there are other credible leaders who just may be the new Prime Minister after the elections are over.
National Alliance Party leader Patrick Pruaitch, currently deputy PM, may have a chance, having been part of the two most recent coalition governments. For this election NA has endorsed a 59 candidates.
Other leaders like Powes Parkop, William Duma and Don Polye are also in running for the role having expressed their intentions.
While all these leaders vie for this top post, the one that comes through with the most numbers will be invited by the Governor-General to form the government.
The Papua New Guinea general election is on July 2-22.
Republished with permission.