PNG opposition depleted by another round of defections
Papua New Guinea's Opposition has been depleted to three MPs out of a total of 111 in Parliament following another round of defections.
Papua New Guinea's opposition has been reduced to three MPs out of a total of 111 in Parliament following another round of defections.
Two MPs, Madang Governor Jim Kas and Huon Gulf MP Ross Seymour, this month left the opposition to join the National Alliance in the government coalition.
While the defections have concerned the Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates, they also appear to be signs of maneuvering for long-term goals.
Johnny Blades reports.
Cross-floor movement has been a feature of PNG's parliament since a 2010 Supreme Court ruling watered down restrictions on party-hopping in the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates. The Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates says the government is able to lure opposition MPs due to the understanding that disbursal of public funds for their districts depends on it. Alphonse Gelu says this needs to be changed for the sake of a vibrant parliamentary democracy. But his office has drawn up a proposal to restrict parliamentary movements again.
ALPHONSE GELU: We've proposed a new Organic Law which won't keep members to their parties but basically it will make it tougher for them to leave their parties. So if we have ten members of parliament that are sitting in the opposition, under the revised laws we'll make sure that those ten must stick with their party, because if they want to leave there are certain things that we've put in place in this new revised law.
The opposition leader Belden Namah's position has been further isolated after it emerged that his long-time deputy Sam Basil is leaving his party, the PNG Party, to add to the recent defection of the two MPs from the party. While he is not leaving the opposition, Mr Basil is joining PNG's oldest political party, the Pangu Party, which has been without an MP since last year. There is speculation that Mr Basil would come in as leader, bearing in mind that anyone looking to be a potential candidate for Prime Minister in PNG's parliament must generally be the leader of a party. The Pangu Party's secretary-general, Moses Taian, says their party is rebuilding after falling from its prime in the 1980s
MOSES TAIAN: We as a party had the most members of the parliament. About 54 members and now we have no members so that is a record of how our party started off and how it really came to be where it is now - It is partly to do with National Alliance but it is in the management - in the leadership of the parties.
Meanwhile, it's clear that the National Alliance, which was the ruling party in the previous two terms of parliament, is re-emerging as a political force after defeat at the last election. With 13 MPs the NA is now the second biggest party in parliament. Its current leader Patrick Pruaitch says his party is an attractive grouping for MPs to join.
PATRICK PRUAITCH: It may have been a number of factors. One, the two members that have defected recently are from our region where National Alliance is very strong...Two the experience that National Alliance brings to this current Government and the consistency that we provide and the stability that we provide to this current coalition government.
While the People's National Congress of Peter O'Neill, with around 50 MPs, is easily the biggest party, changes can happen swiftly in PNG politics and even within the government coalition, a number of parties are biding their time for a chance to lead government.
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