Three major parties have emerged as frontrunners to form the next Papua New Guinea government with their party leader’s eager to be next Prime Minister.
These are current coalition leader PANGU, headed by incumbent Prime Minister James Marape, Opposition leader Belden Namah’s PNG Party and Peoples National Congress led by former prime minister Peter O’Neill.
These leaders and the parties have invested heavily in their campaign and candidates and are using strategic campaigning including social media outreach to network with supporters in the rural areas.
It is always a numbers game.
The party that wins the most seats gets the invite to form the next government with its leader the most likely Prime Minister.
But politics in PNG is fluid, and smaller parties with critical numbers, often hold sway over formations of government.
Eleventh hour horse trading in the past has always featured prominently with the formations of government and smaller parties would also be riding shotgun with the bigger parties.
If anything, this is a three-way horse race with each party trying by any means on the campaign track to derail the other, even to the extent of attacking opponents, setting fire to their posters, and burning their properties.
All three leaders have been hot around the country, shopping their candidates to the voters, selling policies and even discrediting other parties, bringing in tension along the way. PANGU’s James Marape is confident of returning to form government in the next parliament and say he will step down if otherwise.
“I am taking the government formation to Wewak and taking all members who win and we will form the government there,” declared Marape.
Pangu is banking on 75 candidates for this election and Marape has travelled over four provinces to support their candidates.
Vocal opposition leader Belden Namah also openly put up his hands to become Prime Minister after 15 years on the other bench.
“I am serious in the business to be the Prime Minister of PNG after this election” said Namah, who is leader of the PNG Party who has endorsed a total of 50 candidates.
Namah added he never raised his hands for the role in respect of late Sir Michael Somare but now he is ready to lead the country forward.
Another strong contender is former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill leader of the People’s National Congress party who has fielded of 95 candidates contesting various seats across the country.
O’Neill has made it clear that the PNC party is ready to come back into power.
He reportedly said that he and the PNC party is poised to return to government and rescue the country.
O’Neill said, “The new government needs to work harder… with a clear mandate to a political party with policies to deliver to the people and the country.
To date, only PNC party has put our policies which are aimed at delivering basic services to our people and improving living standards.”
But while all eyes are on Marape, Namah and O’Neill, there are other credible leaders who just may be the new Prime Minister after the elections are over.
National Alliance Party leader Patrick Pruaitch may have a chance having been part of the two most recent coalition governments. For this election NA has endorsed a 59 candidates.
Other leaders like Powes Parkop, William Duma and Don Polye are also in running for the role having expressed their intentions.
While all these leaders vie for this top post, the one that comes through with the most numbers will be invited by the Governor General to form the government.
Meanwhile, the Registry of Political Parties and Candidates Commission has raised concerns over the conduct of supporters of major political parties and candidates at campaign rallies throughout PNG.
Acting Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates Commission Emmanuel Pok said they have observed that there is growing in-fighting between the major political parties, their candidates and supporters.
He said campaign rallies should not be on condemning each other, but rather healthy debates on the respective party policies.
He said they observed several campaign rallies in the Highlands region and are worried about the behaviour and conduct of supporters, candidates and major political parties in Southern Highlands, Western Highlands and Eastern Highlands.
Pok has been emphasising on the conduct of political parties and their candidates and supporters in the elections and one such is the Code of Conduct document.
The office has encouraged 53 registered political parties to sign a document, which would guide their conduct in the elections, however, only 47 political parties signed the document.
Supporters have been cautioned not to use the national election to spoil their ties and relationship with one and other.
Pok said: “When campaigning, (people) must conduct an ethical campaign and adhere to laws and regulations.
“They must develop clear and easy to understand messages for the voters to understand.
“They must respect rights and freedom of candidates to campaign and disseminate their political ideas and principles, must respect the rights of other candidate, the rights of voters and the committee.
Must have inclusive campaign,” he said.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS