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Pacific News Minute: After Chaotic Election, Peter O’Neill Re-elected Prime Minister


While several seats remain to be decided, members of parliament in Papua New Guinea re-elected Peter O’Neill as Prime Minister. The vote followed a chaotic election, a contentious count and, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, one final drama.


After days of wrangling, the outcome was clear by the time Papua New Guinea’s tenth parliament gathered in the national legislature in Waiganai. But the proceedings were disrupted when two men claimed to be the elected representative from Gumine, and both refused to leave.


Amid shouts and confusion, beleaguered Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato explained that votes had been improperly deducted from the total won by Nick Kuman of the ruling People’s National Congress and  he declared Kuman the victor. This, along with at least a dozen other results, will likely wind up before the court of disputed returns.


And it wasn’t the only double declaration. After a lengthy vote count, former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta was declared the winner in the capital’s Moresby North West District before a gathering of election officials, media and police. But the returning officer, Moka Havara was not there, so his assistant signed the paperwork.


Then, three hours later, Havara turned up in a hotel room to declare that the man who finished third had actually won. That result was promptly thrown out, Sir Mekere described the bizarre scene as a classic example of government break down. He will be among the leaders of the opposition.


The vote to re-elect Peter O’Neill was 60-46, considerably reduced from the majority he commanded five years ago. Already dogged by long standing corruption charges, his legitimacy will be further clouded by the most chaotic election in the country’s history.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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