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Will Peter O’Neill return as prime minister?

O'Neill
Disgraced former prime minister O'Neill. Despite Port Moresby gossip, police minister Kramer says O'Neill has no chance of making a comeback

BRYAN KRAMER MP
| Kramer Report | Extracts

MADANG - Following the election of James Marape as the eighth prime minister of Papua New Guinea in May 2019, there have been whispers in the corridors of Waigani and among certain members of the business community that strong believe Peter O’Neill will be returned as prime minister.

So what chance does O’Neill have returning as prime minister? The short answer is zero.

For O’Neill to have any chance of being re-elected as prime minister, it would be through one of three scenarios:

1 – Supreme Court upholds opposition leader Belden Namah’s supreme court reference challenging Marape’s election by declaring it null and void and ordering parliament to reconvene and carryout a fresh election.

2 – Successful vote of no confidence.

3 – At 2022 general elections.

In Scenario #1, assuming the supreme court ordered a fresh election on the floor of parliament, O’Neill would be the last person parliament would return as prime minister.

While he is a leader of the second largest party in parliament, he no longer enjoys the majority support or respect of parliament.

Before the change of government, People’s National Congress were 46 members strong only to be reduced to just 15 members following O'Neill's resignation.

To be re-elected prime minister O’Neill would need the support of the other coalition partners however the very same parties abandoned him while those who remained in his camp insisted he resign so there is zero chance they would return him to the very position they worked so hard to force him out.

Without delving into the merits of the supreme court reference, I’ve studied the issues and it’s my respectful opinion it won’t succeed.

Scenario #2 being a successful vote of no confidence, section 145(4) of the constitution states that a motion of no confidence in the prime minister may not be moved within 18 months, commencing on the date of prime minister’s appointment.

Marape was appointed prime minister on 28 May 2019, therefore 18 month grace period expires on 28 November 2020.

So from now up until the 28 November 2020, prime minister Marape is safe from facing a vote of no confidence.

Section 145(2)(b) of the constitution states that a vote of confidence shall not be moved within 12 months from the fifth anniversary from the date fixed for the return of the writs at the previous general election.

The Opposition will only be afforded two chances to move a vote of confidence against the Prime Minister, the first possibly in February 2021 and second in June 2021.

Why February and June? Parliament normally sits during February every year and June because I expect parliament to adjourn from February to June before adjourning to August 2021.

Further, while the Constitution provides for votes of no confidence against the prime minister it also provides for other strict requirements before parliament may consider it.

1) It must be signed by not less than 12 members of parliament.

2) It must also nominate who the alternative prime minister.

The opposition only has six members of parliament and I expect them to lose another two more by year end.

So unless 15 members of PNC cross the floor to join opposition and support the opposition’s notice of motion of no confidence, it is unlikely to succeed.

In summary, I don’t expect a vote of no confidence to succeed but assuming it did succeed, again the last person to secure the support of 56 members would be Peter O’Neill.

The third and last scenario for O’Neill to be re-elected prime minister is securing the largest number of seats following 2022 general elections.

If history is anything to go by O’Neill’s PNC party are expected to be decimated in 2022.

So in next six months expect PNC members to start abandoning their party and joining Marape's Pangu Party for their own political survival.

Comments

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Philip Fitzpatrick

I wonder whether Pangu has any sort of mechanism to vet politicians seeking to join it.

Does it have any sort of mission statement or set of standards against which to carry out such vetting?

There are certainly politicians in the parliament whose personal standards leave much to be desired. Why would you allow them to join your party?

I guess raw, naked numbers count more than acceptable standards in most parliaments.

A party of integrity is a rare beast indeed but the old Pangu of the 1970's came close.

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