It is good news for Papua New Guinea that Governor General Sir Michael Ogio has invited Peter O’Neill to form the next government.
Mr O’Neill appears to have the backing of around 75% of the MPs elected to parliament at the recent national elections.
This result will hopefully allow PNG to move on from the period of instability that followed the decision of the Parliament last year to remove Sir Michael Somare from the office of Prime Minister, after an extended absence due to illness.
Mr Somare’s return to PNG triggered a constitutional crisis which at times placed the Parliament at loggerheads with the Governor General and members of the judiciary.
The acrimony around events at that time increased concerns of a violent election campaign and raised questions about national stability.
To the great credit of the people of PNG the elections were relatively peaceful, providing Mr O’Neill with the legitimacy that was under challenge prior to the election.
Importantly, Mr Somare has thrown his support behind Mr O’Neill which should provide the new government with a huge boost to its authority and future stability.
Mr O’Neill is no longer aligned with former Deputy Belden Namah, who has taken out newspaper advertisements in an attempt to garner support for his own coalition.
One of the key challenges for Mr O’Neill will be to reinforce the democratic foundations upon which PNG must rely for its future stability, including an independent judiciary, and to strengthen other key institutions of government.
During my discussions with Mr O’Neill, he made it clear that he has a robust agenda for reform, which he was unable to implement fully during the tumultuous 12 months of his Prime Ministership prior to the recent election.
It is encouraging to read reports that Mr O’Neill has been holding a series of meetings and workshops in the town of Alotau that have been described as “constructive” by some of the newly elected MPs.
One of the proposals reportedly under discussion is the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption.
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