PNG postpones election

The PNG parliament has voted to postpone the general election, due in June, for 6 months. This appears to be outside the constitutional powers of the parliament. It follows a long course of similar actions since the O’Neill government and the supreme court fell out over who is the constitutional prime minister.

6 thoughts on “PNG postpones election

  1. If only the peopleof Mali would follow the example of the people of PNG. The independent electoral commissioner met the cabinet yesterday. The parliamentary prime minister (the issue of who is the constitutional prime minister remains before the courts despite the government arresting the chief justice at one point) conceded after the meeting:

    The National Executive Council (and) Parliament does not have the power to direct the electoral commissioner – that is understood. The decision to defer the election cannot be deferred outside the five-year term of this parliament. That means elections must be conducted before August 5th which is the return of writs from the last election (in 2007). That is the law. Any decision to defer, the issue of writs or conduct an election is the decision of the electoral commission.

    Monitory institutions can work, even in the face of a government prepared to violate the constitution.

  2. I still don’t understand the way the constitutional crisis has progressed. Why has the Supreme Court ordered Somare to be reinstated as PM if Parliament passed a non-confidence motion against him?

    • Alan can explain better than I can, but the gist is that there is a dispute over whether the prime ministership was properly vacated in the first place. If it was not, then subsequent actions by the parliamentary majority to install a new PM would be invalid.

      I don’t think there was ever a vote of no confidence.

      (How did I do, Alan?)

  3. The plot has 3 acts.
    Last August, Somare was in Singapore for medical treatment from which he was not expected to recover. The Somare family announced his resignation as prime minister although there was no written resignation as required by the constitution at S146(1).

    Parliament declared the office of prime minister vacant. They did not follow the constitutional requirements for a vote of confidence at S145 or a medical removal at S142(5)(c). The deputy prime minister was then designated as prime minister to the governor-general who made the formal appointment.

    Somare then recovered and moved the Supreme Court to declare that he had not validly been removed as prime minister. The O’Neill government began a campaign of parliamentary attacks on the court, including unsuccessful attempts to remove the chief justice from office. The court rejected the removals because they did not comply with the constitutional requirements for the removal of a judge at Ss180, 181 and 184.

    Essentially the O’Neill government has a record of having parliament do lots of things that the constitution does authorise it to do. These range from suspending and removing judges to postponing the election. The one thing parliament has never done is pass a vote of no confidence in Somare.

    The assaults on the judiciary include arresting the chief justice, charging him with perverting the course of justice, and then claiming the criminal charges worked his suspension from office. When the court granted a permanent stay on those charges parliament passed the Judicial Conduct Act which authorises a simple majority of parliament to suspend a judge without meeting the constitutional requirements.

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