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Who will succeed Somare? An analysis


WITH PRIME MINISTER Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare officially declared medically unfit to lead the National Alliance coalition until the next election, the question to be asked is who will supersede his leadership?

It is quite difficult to predict Sir Michael’s successor given the complexity of the National Alliance make-up, however from observation we can construct some scenarios.

Over the years the current NA government has had several leadership contests based on regional politics.

The key leadership tussle has been between the Highlands’ regional camp and the Momase camp, whilst the Southern and the Nuigini Islands camps seem moderate.

From this constellation, we can assume a pattern that the Highlands and Momase camps will compete for leadership.

We expect three political factions within Highlands regional bloc - the O’Neill group and a split in Enga between acting PM Sam Abal’s group and former deputy PM leader and Highlands’ hot candidate, Don Polye’s group.

Given the Highlands complex political culture, we expect that a split in the Engan group would most likely shift alliance to Southern Highlands group. In the Southern Highlands, the hottest candidate will be Peter O’Neill. However, should Engan MPs unite, we expect a different scenario. Polye would be more likely to assume leadership than Abal.

On the other side of the coin, the Momase camp may face similar political competition. We expect a split between Patrick Pruaitch and Arthur Somare. Although both leaders are highly competitive, Arthur may assume leadership for three reasons.

First, he will be preferred over Pruaitch to maintain the rand Chief’s legacy. Second, he has played an important role in economic development by bringing onshore many high impact projects such as LNG. Finally, his leadership may attract NA support in honour and recognition of Sir Michael Somare.

In the middle camp, we have the Niugini Islands and Southern (Papua), both of which do not possess potential candidates for the leadership.

In the Niugini Islands, we expect Paul Tiensten to bandwagon with the Momase camp. In the South, there is a vacuum after the defection of former deputy prime minister, Sir Puka Temu, to the Opposition.

Given this situation, we expect two possible scenarios. First, both camps may remain faithful with Momase in fear of losing the leadership to the Highlands region. Secondly, there will be a split within the camps between pro-Somare and pro-Pruaitch factions.

Although there is the possibility of defections of MPs from the coastal bloc to the highlands bloc, this is less likely to occur.

From this analysis, we can draw some conclusions.

First, political instability within NA coalition is inevitable.

Secondly, we expect some leadership shift in the Highlands camp with new faces should there be a stalemate in leadership between Enga and Southern Highlands.

Thirdly, we expect a split in the Momase camp. However, it is most likely that Arthur Somare will assume leadership.

Fourth, we also a split between Niugini Islands and Southern camps; however, it is most likely that both will support Momase.

This leaves us with four most likely possible candidates.

Arthur Somare, Sam Abal, Don Polye and Peter O’Neill.

In projecting a rough prediction, we expect Arthur Somare to reign should there be a stalemate between Highlands MPs. However, should the Highlands regional MPs unite, we expect Don Polye to assume leadership.


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Peter O'Neill will team up with Arthur Somare, with support Sam Abal.

Peter O'Neill and Arthur will keep their ministries. Polye will get sacked and another Highlander will be given Polye's ministry.

Sam Abal is a respectable MP from the Highlands to lead NA in 2012.

Peter Kranz

Except Sir Mekere is not without interests.

"Sir Mekere Morauta has built up more assets than Somare from the profits of his fishing business. His Australian wife, Roslyn, bought a $3.6m riverside mansion in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm in 2008. This followed a $910,000 purchase of another New Farm property in 1999."

Source: ‘Papua New Guinea powerbrokers snap up property’ by Paul Cleary, The Australian, 20 January 2011"

Steve Gallagher Darong

There are lots of power-crying MPs and we do not no who will get the top position in parliament. The possible candidates from the Highlands bloc are Don Polye and Sam Abal; from the Momase bloc, Patrick Pruaich and Arthur Somare; and from the Papuan bloc possibly Ana Pala.

From this list, we can screen the possible candidates and then get the best out of them. Sam Abal, Don Polye and Partick Pruaich could take up the seat.

Because Don Polye and Sam Abal come from the Highlands bloc, the possibility could be Patrick Pruaich, However, we have had enough of Sepiks so if Don Polye and Sam Abal could agree on who can get the top job, it is possible that one of them will.

Otherwise I bet that let Sam Abal will continue until the 2012 election.

Jeffrey Febi

It will be a race between MPs from the Highlands and MPs from the coastal regions.

I can't deny that many from the coast do not subscribe to having another Highlander as the PM and that feeling is well known.

Predictably, the Highlands MPs will fight for power and many will split to join groups headed by a coastal MP.

And the next PM, should they vote for one, would not be a Highlander. No one from the Southern or Islands regions in the National Alliance is prime ministerial material.

The Momase region, especially the Sepiks are highly likely to get the PM's post again.

Peter Kranz

Strange that some of the most talented members of Somare's previous cabinets were sidelined and left the NA coalition to join the opposition.

I'm thinking of Bart Philemon (who had the guts to refuse to accept suspicious foreign loans being pushed by Somare); Puka Temu and Belden Namah.

Philemon was a most able Minister of Finance and oversaw PNG's economic growth in the mid 2000s; Temu a talented and natural leader with a heart for the people (and a doctor); and Namah was wise to the forestry deals going on behind closed doors and found he couldn't stomach it any more.

If Somare goes, I suspect the coalition of interests which kept him in power will collapse and we will see a re-alignment of forces.

For all his faults, Somare was a consummate negotiator and deal-maker. In his absence I don't see anyone with the same political nous to hold things together.

Maybe the Highlands power blocs will swing behind the ostracised talent?

Just one lapun's opinion.

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