Six candidates want to be PM in PNG

Charles Abel

Former deputy prime minister Charles Abel is the latest politician to announce ambitions to be Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s 9th prime minister in the 11th Parliament after General Election 2022 (GE22).

The others who have declared their intentions to be the “chief executive officer” of PNG are former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill (People’s National Congress – Ialibu-Pangia), Opposition Leader Belden Namah (PNG Party – Vanimo Green), former Deputy Prime Minister (under O’Neill) Patrick Pruaitch (National Alliance – Aitape Lumi) and former cabinet member under O’Neill, Richard Maru (People’s First Party-Yangoru-Saussia). 

For now, at least five political heavyweights want Prime Minister James Marape’s job after GE22. 

Whatever ambitions the politicians may harbour, they will all have to first “win their right to stake a claim for the “hot seat” – that is to win the biggest number of seats in Parliament or the majority, a herculean task in Papua New Guinean politics, says The National.

The leader, whose party wins the most seats, will then be in the pole position to forge an electoral pact to rule.

As anything is possible in politics, the post-GE22 negotiations and horse-trading are expected to be intense and the party with the most seats could also lose out if the numbers are too close to call.

Abel’s announcement of his ambition is surprising because the Our Development Party (ODP) leader is contesting the Milne Bay regional seat that comes with the office of the governor.

Abel is the incumbent Alotau MP, a seat he had successfully defended in three consecutive general elections.

“I am a political party leader, so naturally I will still eye the prime minister’s job. Why not, have a go there and have a first Milne Bay prime minister,” he added. 

Abel appealed for unity among the incoming Milne Bay members to support him and his party to make it happen. 

He also urged incoming leaders from Papua to unite and form a political institution to have a bigger say on national development issues involving projects in the region. 

“Leaders of Southern must be involved in national development discussions, especially matters on benefits of big projects. 

“Not other people deciding for us. 

“That must stop. We cannot forever be joining other peoples’ political parties. 

“ODP is a national party based on Christian principles. 

“But we are also Papuans, we have our interests. 

“We have our fish and other marine resources, gold, gas, forests and everything else that are being exploited today,” he added.

Abel said current issues over the Papuan Gas called on all Papuan leaders to take interest.

“I am also from Gulf and that is my peoples’ project.

“I am concerned over its future. 

“I was involved in its development and I do not care about the current Government’s talk (rhetoric) about taking PNG back.

“I see it as the best negotiated project,” he added.

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