Titanic power struggle tipped for PNG’s ‘game changer’ election

The PNG national flag - 2022 general election
The PNG national flag ... the political landscape has been divided between Prime Minister James Marape's PANGU Pati and the former prime minister Peter O'Neill-led People's National Congress. Image: Inside PNG

PNG Post-Courier

Today is officially the last day of campaigning in Papua New Guinea’s 2022 National General Election.

Count tomorrow until Monday as rest days, but in politically charged PNG, anything is possible, including illegal last-minute clandestine campaigning.

Polling is set to begin Tuesday, July 4, when millions will exercise their democratic right at the polls to elect their 118 MPs.

The exercise has been tainted by violence, mainly in the Highlands, and allegations of ballot tampering, but this has not discouraged the will of the people to get over this election.

“Wok Mas Go Het Yet” (Work must go on) has been the nationalistic slogan from patriotic Papua New Guineans who see it as their duty to fulfil their electoral obligations by overturning the results of 2017.

The 2022 national ballot will be a game changer for a country that has seen and experienced more upheavals in the past 5 years then any other time in its 47 years of independence.

Since the issue of writs on May 29, poll watchers have predicted a titanic struggle between the two main political parties PANGU (Green), led by incumbent Prime Minister James Marape and People’s National Congress (Red), led by former PM Peter O’Neill.

Red versus Green ‘armies’
Both the PNC Red Army of O’Neill and the PANGU Green Army of Marape have been at loggerheads in various campaign locations but the real test will come down to the wire on polling day.

Who will muster the numbers to gain power when the writs are returned on July 29?

Here is our analysis, based on our political coverage since last year, and based on analysis of the 2017 election results.

There have been many insights released and floated by scientists, political analysts, geologists and even by table mamas, wannabe “glassman” (sorcerers) and journalists on their bets.

The political landscape has been divided between Marape and O’Neill, though there may be other leaders like opposition leader Belden Namah, Patrick Pruaitch, William Duma, Sir John Pundari and the ‘Last Knight Standing’, Sir Julius Chan, who are contenders for this coming election.

However, all eyes are on the resource-rich provinces of Southern Highlands (O’Neill) and Hela (Marape).

This tectonic fracture was clearly evident in November 2020 when O’Neill tried sponsoring a vote of no confidence and he funded the Vanimo Camp, but Marape’s Loloata camp won that contest.

‘Take Back PNG’ mantra
The divide is obvious. Marape has mostly those who are first and second term MPs who are inclined to the “Take Back PNG” mantra and the philosophies behind it, while O’Neill had his old school politicians who all dreamed to be PM some day with the likes of Namah, Pundari, Charles Abel, Davis Steven, Powes Parkop, Sir Julius, Duma and Nick Kuman to name a few.

And as the nation goes into polls in three days time, this divide of the two classes of politicians still remains with the emerging heavyweights yet to show their power.

However, a “dark horse” in the shadows might emerge where we could see the rise of Enga if the battle of the Southern Highlanders does not work according to plan.

While it will be anybody’s game and being in the land of the unexpected, if the trend of the last elections where the ruling party returns to form government (National Alliance in 2007, People’s National Congress in 2012 and 2017) then it should be PANGU in 2022, but will they have the numbers to form government?

While some are sure of victory and already counting their eggs with the grand announcement of coalitions, others are holding their cards close to their chest like a true poker grandmaster.

This is the newspaper’s political projection from the election team at the PNG Post-Courier which will focus on the political party seats likely to win when polling starts on Tuesday.

Election projections
We project that of the 111 MPs in the last five years, 55 percent of sitting MPs will most likely lose their seats in this year’s 2022 National General Election.

Based on the 2017 NGE results, the sitting MPs who we project will not return are those that have scored less than 10 percent of total votes in their first count, and MPs that scored between 10– 20 percent in their first count are at extreme risks of losing their seats.

So these two categories make up about 55 percent of the sitting MPs, which translates to 57-60 MPs who most likely will not return.

To predict the number of seats to be won by each political party, we will use the simple winning percentage technique of each political party in 2017 to predict the potential wins for 2022 seats.

We will adjust for new political parties and also adjust for the PANGU Pati as it is going into this election as the ruling party.

We will also look at the main political parties and the independents and review each political party in 2017 versus the number of candidates each party endorsed in 2017 and the current 2022.

The independents make up 40 percent of the candidate list for 2022 among 53 political party endorsed candidates.

‘Dark horse’ parties
Then we have the “dark horse” parties that we will also talk about including their party leaders.

At the start of this election, PANGU went in with 40 but were down to 38 sitting MPs (2 had died) and the PNC was next with 15, NA 8, URP and ULP (less than 8 MPs).

The 2017 election results detailed that PNC had the highest winning numbers with 29 seats, National Alliance with 15 seats and PANGU and URP both returned 10 seats.

The rest had 5 seats or below with the exception of Independents that won 13 seats.

The tentative projections for the top five political parties and the independents for 2022:

  • PNC endorsed 95 candidates in 2017, won 29 seats, a 31 percent win rate and in 2022 our projection is that of their 97 endorsed, 32 are likely to win.
  • PANGU endorsed 69 in 2017, won only 10 seats, a 14 percent win rate and in 2022 they have endorsed 81 candidates 2022. Projection: 20 seats likely to win.
  • United Resource Party (URP) endorsed 34 in 2017 and won 10 seats, a 29 percent win rate. In 2022, of 49 endorsed candidates, projected to win 14 seats.
  • National Alliance Party (NA) endorsed 73 candidates in 2017, won 15 seats, a 21 per cent win rate. In 2022, they have 63 candidates; they will likely win 12 seats.
  • PNG Party (PNGP) endorsed 87 candidates in 2017, won 4 seats for a 5 percent win rate. In 2022, they have endorsed 84; our projection is that they will win 5 seats again.
  • The Independents had 1921 candidates in 2017 and won 13 seats, a 1 percent win rate. In 2022, they increased to 1500 and our projection is that they will win 10 seats.
  • Of the women candidates, we expect a strong woman rally and predict a 5 seat mandate.

Republished with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email