11 Jul 2002

Close vote threatens Sir Michael Somare's hold on East Sepik Regional seat

10:33 am on 11 July 2002

There are still doubts that Papua New Guinea's first Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, will retain his East Sepik regional seat.

Sir Michael, who's National Alliance party is leading the seat tally, has held the seat since 1968, usually with a hefty majority.

But this election he is facing a popular local vanilla trader, Allan Bird, who has at times led the count.

Our correspondent Peter Niesi reports, the race is so close that the outcome is unlikely to be known until the last ballot boxes, from Angoram, are counted.

"Right now, they are separated by 3,500 votes. Now the fact that Angoram is the home of the somares, might do good things for them, but even that is being questioned - hmm because there sems to be some measure of popularity for Alan Bird in that area."

Peter Niesi says Sir Michael is in front at the moment by about 3 thousand votes but there have been delays in the counting and the final result won't be known until late Friday or early Saturday