29 Dec 2008

Bougainville elects new president

9:31 pm on 29 December 2008

Papua New Guinea's autonomous Bougainville region has elected James Tanis as its new president.

Mr Tanis claimed victory in this month's by-election, held after the former president Joseph Kabui died from a heart attack.

Mr Tanis, who was once closely linked with the late separatist leader, Francis Ona, beat 13 other contenders for the post.

He was nearly 2000 votes ahead of the second-placed candidate, former national government cabinet minister, Sam Akoitai.

The election was considered to have attracted a poor voter turn-out, with some regional voting restricted by heavily armed road blocks and ongoing local disputes. Many Bougainvilleans also complained their names were not on election rolls.

An Australian academic who has been closely involved with Bougainville for many years says the election of James Tanis represents a generational shift.

Dr Ted Wolfers of the University of Wollongong says Mr Tanis will bring continuity, as he was closely involved in the peace process and should have a good understanding of what the arrangements are.

However, he also says he expects a generational shift and a different focus on many issues, including more caution over plans to resume mining in the province while finding economic opportunities for younger people.