13 Dec 2011

Nervous times in PNG as Supreme Court rules PM's election unconstitutional

11:22 am on 13 December 2011

There's tension in Papua New Guinea's capital where a Supreme Court ruling that the election of Peter O'Neill as Prime Minister was unconstitutional has created confusion around the government.

The court found that August's parliamentary declaration of a vacancy in the office of Prime Minister, followed by a parliamentary vote that saw Mr O'Neill elected, was illegal.

The ruling paves the way for the reinstatement of former Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, but Peter O'Neill's government also passed amendments in parliament to legalise his election and have him sworn in again.

Police have increased their presence at key locations around Port Moresby.

Paul Barker of the Institute of National Affairs says the public is nervous.

"Offices closed down early and they're going to be watching the situation particularly avoiding having their female staff out late because there is a tension in the air at the moment. There are lots of unemployed people who can be quite volatile in defence of their mates or especially if their mates shuffle a little bit of money in their direction to be volatile."