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How James Marape was re-elected prime minister of PNG without opposition and how Australia might turn that to advantage

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 12 August 2022


You can be excused for not knowing it, as there has been almost zero coverage in the Australian media, but Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, James Marape, has been re-elected unanimously.

That is the only way his 97-0 victory on the first day of the newly elected Parliament can be interpreted. His predecessor Peter O'Neill abstained, but it seems that all members of the Opposition including the Opposition Leader Belden Namath, voted for James Marape!

There is really only one reason for this. And it reflects a worrying trend in the politics and democracy of Papua New Guinea.

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I have observed every PNG election since 1982. In the early years members who were elected were happy to serve in Opposition if their party, or alliance of parties, did not have the "numbers" to form the government. I know some members who spent their whole career as MPs did so in opposition.

The change that has occurred has happened only in the last year or so.

What yesterday's vote showed beyond any question is that getting elected to "serve" the local community is now secondary to being in government!

Once James Marape was able to demonstrate he had a clear majority - about 60 of the 80 or so declared seats - he was assured of re-election unless Peter O'Neill could bring about a major split in the multi-party Marape coalition.

O'Neill tried to do just that by offering to support the United Resources Party Leader, William Duma, for Prime Minister.

There was one big problem with that - even without the URP Marape would have been hard to beat. Given the flaws in the election process, and especially the slowness in vote counting in many seats, Marape rightly sensed that when parliament met this week between 20 and 30 seats would still not be "declared".

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That would mean just under 50 votes would be enough to win - in a parliament that will end up with 119 members!

Marape was able to very skilfully capitalise on that. Once he got to 60 plus, he was just about unbeatable.

And now to the possible "benefit" for Australia from the fundamental change of attitude held by elected MPs.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Jeffrey Wall

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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