26 Jul 2012

O'Neill-led coalition firming after PNG polls

9:31 am on 26 July 2012

More of Papua New Guinea's main political parties have signalled their intention to join a coalition government led by Peter O'Neill.

His People's National Congress Party is on track to emerge from the general election as the party with the most seats.

The PNC is ahead in 26 of the 111 electorates and although unable to rule on its own, is expected to be invited by the Governor-General to form a coalition.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr O'Neill was joined by leaders of several parties including the National Alliance's Sir Michael Somare, who he controversially replaced as Prime Minister last year, to announce their intention to form a government.

Yesterday, the Triumph Heritage Empowerment party of Prime Ministerial hopeful Don Polye, ahead in 12 electorates, indicated its support for a government with Mr O'Neill.

The United Resources Party, which has won three seats and leads in another five, is also in the camp.

The party's leader William Duma says it doesn't matter to him and other members of the coalition which ousted Sir Michael from office last year that they are now entering a coalition with him.

"Yeah but unlike other countries, in PNG - in politics - there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. The dynamics change all the time, so numbers dictate the way in which you play the game."

The electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen says he will advise the Governor-General that an extension is needed to the deadline for the official return of writs.

The deadline for the return of writs to the Governor-General was scheduled for this Friday but Mr Trawen says he's received writs for only 18 of the 111 electorates.

He says delays across the whole election process, due largely to logistical difficulties, have meant the Electoral Commission needs to extend the deadline for at least a few days and maybe a week.

I think they're winding down, most of the electorates are winding down, including Chimbu and Eastern Highlands. We need that space for the returning officers to bring the writs to me. So we're looking at the weekend for them to bring all the writs down.

Andrew Trawen says the Commission is still assessing how long an extension is required.