Wednesday July 25, 2012
O'Neill set to retake Papua New Guinea leadership
SYDNEY: Papua New Guinea's Peter O'Neill looks set to retake the prime ministership after fierce rival Sir Michael Somare reportedly agreed to support his bid to form government.
O'Neill has been locked in a bitter power struggle with former leader Somare for months, with both men declaring themselves the rightful premier ahead of national elections which commenced on June 23.
But with O'Neill set to win the most seats in parliament, Somare pledged to work with him to form the next government along with fellow former prime ministers Sir Julius Chan and Paias Wingti, The National newspaper reported.
O'Neill and Somare, whose leadership dispute had pushed the poor Pacific nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis and divided the judiciary, hugged and held hands at a press conference on Tuesday, it said.
"We do not want disruptions," the paper reported 76-year-old Somare, who easily retook his seat in the polls, as saying.
"I believe that by having me, Sir Julius and Wingti, you can be rest assured that we will be able to provide services and give confidence to our people. "We are seeing a new government in the making."
Papua New Guinea was thrown into turmoil last year after the Supreme Court ruled that O'Neill's election as prime minister by fellow MPs last August was illegal and former premier Somare should be reinstated.
The decision triggered a crisis which, at its height, saw the nation with two prime ministers, two governors-general and two police chiefs.
The political heavyweights said their agreement would restore confidence in struggling PNG, which is on the brink of a huge resources boom.
"This is a memorable occasion in the history of this nation when such big power players like the Grand Chief (Somare) and Paias Wingti are here which will show the people of this nation that we, the experienced leaders, have the heart for the nation and its people," said Chan, who orchestrated the move.
A spokesman for O'Neill said the 47-year-old and his People's National Congress party had won the support of 39 elected members of parliament from the 66 seats declared so far. Parliament has 109 seats. -AFP