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PM’S JOB IS ANYBODY’S GUESS - INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES WILL PLAY A MAJOR ROLE

by CYRIL GARE

The Registry of Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates has confirmed that 44 political parties have registered and are contesting in the 2017 legislative election. They are:
Papua and Niugini Union Pati (PANGU Pati – Sam Basil (Parliamentary leader)), Peoples Progress Party (PPP - Ben Micah), Peoples National Congress (PNC - Peter O’Neill),  United Party (UP – Rimbink Pato), National Alliance Party (NA – Patrick Pruaitch), Papua New Guinea National Party (PNGNP – Kerenga Kua), Papua New Guinea Party (PNGP – Belden Namah), Christian Democratic Party (CDP – Kelly Naru), United Resource Party (URP – William Duma), Melanesian Alliance (MA – Joseph Yopyyopy), Melanesian Liberal Party (MLP – Dr. Allan Marat), People's Democratic Movement Party (PDM – Paias Wingti), New Generation Party (NGP – Bire Kimisopa), Peoples Party (PP – Dr. William Tongap), Social Democratic Party (SDP – Powes Parkop), Trust Papua New Guinea Party (TPNGP – Assik Tommy Tomscoll), Coalition for Reform Party (CRP – Joseph Lelang), Peoples Movement for Change Party (Gary Juffa), Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party (THE Party – Don Polye), Peoples United Assembly Party (Ati Wabiro formerly Anderson Aigiru now deceased), Papua New Guinea Country Party, Peoples Labour Party (PLP), Peoples Action Party (PAP), Peoples Freedom Party, Peoples First Party,  Papua New Guinea Greens Party, Republican Party, Peoples Resource Awareness Party, Star Alliance Party, Mapai Levites Party, National Conservative Party, Papua New Guinea Constitutional Democratic Party, Our Development Party, Papua New Guinea Destiny Party, Grassroots United Front Party (GRUF), Papua New Guinea One Nation Party (PONP), Wantok In Godly Services Party (WINGS), Papua New Guinea Human Rights Party (PNGHRP), Paradise Kingdom Party (PKP), Papua New Guinea First Party (PNGFP), Model Nation Party (MNP), Papua New Guinea Youths Party (PNGYP), Nations Interest Party (NIP), Papua New Guinea Socialist Party (PNGSP), and SOM Pioneer Party (SOM).

Of them less than 20 or 45 per cent per will make impact - meaning winning numbers and ‘influence’ formation of a new Government. Note that I say “influence or influencing” the formation of a new Government. No party since 1982 has ever formed a one party government after Pangu Pati following a general election. This 10th Parliament will see parties winning numbers but not enough to form government by itself therefore will be invited by the Governor General to find coalition partners to help form Government. This offer last for only two weeks. Failing that any political party group or faction can collude.  

This should be the scenario after the writs are returned on July 24. By mid-August, we should know our new Government. But who will be that party or these parties to collude and who will have the influence to become the Prime Minister is the big ‘million kina’ question in the waiting.

Premise 1: Independent candidates will play a major role in the formation of the new government. Why? Because the Supreme Court in 2010 has removed the barrier blocking “free movement” of independent candidates. It ruled that any act stopping this free movement was unconstitutional. This opened the floodgates for MPs to move at will. The revised OLIPPAC to fix this legal shortfall was overlooked by the O’Neill Dion Government and was never passed during this term. It created a dangerous ‘kick back’ in waiting and could be to the detriment of PNC (Peter O’Neill) and its current coalition following this election. It leaves the O’Neill Dion vulnerable on the mercy of “understanding” if it had any with the current coalition before going to elections.

Premise 2: But the current coalition is already disintegrated well before and on the eve of issue of writs on April 20. The coalition: In the beginning – 2012 - Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has a solid 33 Member National Executive Council (NEC) – or Cabinet.
The lineup was heavily dominated by O’Neill’s winning People’s National Congress which boasts 13 Ministers. This is followed by Don Polye’s T.H.E Party which has four; William Duma’s United Resources Party with three.

Patrick Pruaitch’s National Alliance, Sir Julius Chan’s People’s Progress Party, and Peter Ipatas’ People’s Party all have two ministers each; and Our Development Party, United Party, People’s Indigenous Party, People’s Democratic Movement, and Social Democratic Party are all represented by one ministerial post each.

Of the 33 are two Independents candidates – Hon. Richard Maru and Hon. Kerenga Kua.
Of the 33, only one is a woman – Hon. Loujaya Toni (now Kouza), Lae MP who was then removed as Minister for Community Development following removal of Dolye – T.H.E party from the coalition.

In addition, it is interesting to note that of the 33, ten are first term MPs while twelve have served three terms or more in the Haus Tambaran. The remaining eleven are all in their second term.
Geographically, 10 are from the Highlands Region; 10 are from Southern; eight are from Momase; and five are from New Guinea Islands. ‘Regionalism’ has always played a part in Government formation and allocation of ministeries.

There are six party leaders in the 33, with three others – Sir Julius Chan (PPP), Paias Wingti  (PDM) and Peter Ipatas (PP) – all opting to not push their claim for ministerial portfolios, but instead have nominated younger MPs to take their places.

Furthermore, there are two coalition partners who have totally missed out on a ministerial portfolio – both late Anderson Agiru’s People’s United Assembly (PUA) – leadership now headed by Ati Wabiro and Ronny Knight’s New Generation Party, although having pulled in three MPs and two MPs respectively for O’Neill, have not received a portfolio.

In observing this, it is important to note that currently two of the three PUA MPs – Anderson Agiru and Ati Wobiro are Govenors, and the third, Member for Pomio – Paul Tiensten did last after being jailed.
The O’Neill Dion Cabinet 2012-2017 then comprised the following:
1.                   Peter O’Neill (PNC) – 3rd Term; Ialibu-Pangia Open
Prime Minister (serving full term);
2.                   Leo Dion (T.H.E) – 3rd Term; East New Britain Provincial
Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (full term);
3.                   Don Polye (THE) – 3rd Term; Kandep Open, Minister for Treasury (removed now Opposition Leader);
4.                   James Marape (PNC) – 2nd Term; Tari Open, Minister for Finance (full term);
5.                   Rimbink Pato (UP) – 1st Term; Wapenamanda Open, Minister for Foreign Affairs & Immigration (full term);
6.                   Charles Abel (PNC) – 2nd Term; Alotau Open, Minister for National Planning (full term);
7.                   Kerenga Kua (Independent) – 1st Term; Sinasina-Yongomugl Open, Minister for Justice & Attorney General (removed and replaced by Ano Pala);
8.                   Dr Puka Temu (ODP) – 3rd Term; Abau Open, Minister for Public Service (full term);
9.                   William Duma (URP) – 3rd Term; Mt Hagen Open, Minister for Petroleum & Energy (changed ministries);
10.               Patrick Pruaitch (NA) – 3rd Term; Aitape-Lumi Open, Minister for Forestry & Climate Change (changed ministries and recently removed);
11.               John Pundari (PP) – 4th Term; Kompiam-Ambum Open, Minister for the Environment & Conservation (full term);
12.               Mao Zemming (PNC) – 4th Term; Tewai-Siassi Open, Minister for Fisheries & Marine Resources (full term);
13.               Ben Micah (PPP) – 3rd Term; Kavieng Open, Minister for Public Enterprises & State Investment (removed);
14.               Byron Chan (PPP) – 3rd Term; Namatanai Open, Minister for Mining (full term);
15.               Jimmy Miringtoro (PNC) – 2nd Term; South Bougainville Open, Minister for Communication & Information Technology (full term);
16.               Francis Awesa (PNC) – 2nd Term; Imbonggu Open, Minister for Works & Implementation (full term);
17.               Ano Pala (PNC) – 2nd Term; Rigo Open, Minister for Transport (changed ministries but full term as a minister in PO Government);
18.               Benny Allan (PNC) – 3rd Term; Unggai-Bena Open, Minister for Lands & Physical Planning (full term);
19.               Mark Maipaikai (T.H.E) – 3rd Term; Kikori Open, Minister for Labour & Industrial Relations (removed);
20.               Loujaya Toni (PIP) – 1st Term; Lae Open, Minister for Community Development, Religion & Family Affairs (removed);
21.               Boka Kondra (PNC) – 2nd Term; North Fly Open, Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture (discharged from Office by Leadership Tribunal);
22.               Paru Aihi (PNC) – 2nd Term; Kairuku-Hiri Open, Minister for Education (removed from Office by Court);
23.               Steven Kamma (URP) – 2nd Term; Central Bougainville Open, Minister for Bougainville Affairs
24.               David Arore (THE) – 2nd Term; Ijivitari Open, Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science & Technology
25.               Jim Simatab (NA) – 2nd Term; Wewak Open, Minister for Correctional Services (full term);
26.               Dr. Fabian Pok (URP) – 2nd Term; North Waghi Open, Minister for Defense (suspended from ministry but in Government);
27.               Michael Malabag (PNC) – 1st Term; Moresby North West Open, Minister for Health & HIV AIDs (full term);
28.               Richard Maru (Independent) – 1st Term; Yangoru-Saussia Open, Minister for Commerce, Trade & Industry (full term);
29.               Davis Stephen (PP) – 1st Term; Esa’ala Open, Minister for Civil Aviation (full term);
30.               Nixon Duban (PNC) – 1st Term; Madang Open, Minister for Police
31.               Assik Tommy Tomscoll (PDM now leader Trust PNG Party and PM candidate) – 2nd Term; Middle Ramu Open, Minister for Agriculture & Livestock (full term);
32.               Paul Isikiel (PNC) – 1st Term; Markham Open, Minister for Housing & Urban Development (full term);
33.               Justin Tkatchenko (SDP) – 1st Term; Moresby South Open, Minister for Sports & the Pacific Games (full term);

This coalition has disintegrated. Currently during election period, the break up is as follows:
Government: Peoples National Congress (Peter O’Neill), United Resources Party (William Duma), National Party (Rimbink Pato), Byron Chan (as person not PPP), Trust PNG party (Assik Tommy Tomscoll), People’s Party (Dr. William Tongamp), Social Democratic Party (Powes Parkop) and other smaller factions and individual MPs.

Opposition: T.H.E party (Don Polye), Papua New Guinea Party (Belden Namah), National Alliance party (Patrick Pruaitch), Pangu Pati (Sam Basil), Peoples Progress Party (Ben Micah), National Party (Kerenga Kua), New Generation Party (Bire Kimisopa), Melanesia Liberal party (Dr. Allan Marat), Peoples Movement for Change Party (Gary Juffa), and others.  Already, the Opposition has formed alliance and meeting with parties like the Constitutional Democratic Party led by Ila Geno, and Independent candidates like former Prime Minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, NA strongman Arthur Somare and others all claiming nothing but to remove Peter O’Neill and his PNC from forming the next Government blaming it on poor state of the economy. 

Middle bench: Peoples Democratic Movement (Paias Wingti), Christian Democratic Party (Nelly Naru), Coalition for Reform Party (Joseph Lelang), Melanesian Alliance (Joseph Yopyyopi) and other smaller parties and individual MPs.

Premise 3: After the election, only 20 of the 44 political parties or 45 percent would win numbers: PNC – between 15-20 seats, NA - between 10-15, T.H.E party - between 10-15 seats - while the rest would win between 1-3 seats each. Independent candidates also have good chances of winning seats and flexing their muscles in the horse trading period.

Premise 4:  PNC would be given the mandate by GG to form the Government and must execute this opportunity within two weeks. PNC would look for partners but would lose National Party (Rimbink Pato), Byron Chan (back to PPP which is in the Opposition camp), Trust PNG party (Assik Tommy Tomscoll), People’s Party (Dr. William Tongamp), Social Democratic Party (Powes Parkop) and other smaller factions and individual MPs would be moving to the middle group and create one camp vying to form the next Government. O’Neill would be left with National party only (William Duma). Will they have 56 MPs to form the Government? Who will they sway to for numbers? They will look to the middle faction and Independents but certainly not the opposition faction. Independents will play ‘wait and see’ game and fall NOT ONLY to the highest bidder but the “influential” figure.
Definitely O’Neill will be the PM candidate in his camp. In middle camp, Tomscoll and Rimbink Pato will be candidate for the PM while in the Opposition camp Polye, Pruaitch, Micah, Basil, Namah, and Kerega will be aspiring for the PM post. Eventually, Polye, Micah, Basil, and Namah will be dropped (due to Somare’s influence in the camp) leaving Kerenga and Pruaitch as PM candidates in the Opposition camp.

Premise 5: So the PM candidates according to the camp allocations will be: O’Neill, Tomscoll, Rimbink, Pruaitch, and Kerenga. However, Polye and Micah cannot be completely ruled out here. They are influential in their own right and that’s where the ‘danger’ from the Independents come to play. Independents will look at influences and bidding from O’Neill, GC Somare, Sir J, Sir Mekere, Wingti – all former PMs and other “influential” figures capable in playing and controlling the ‘horse trading’.

Prime Minister’s job therefore is still anybody’s guess. This is the land of the unexpected.