Elections promised in Papua New Guinea

The political deadlock in Papua New Guinea (PNG) continues after Prime Minister Peter O’Neill refused to step down in December 2011, following a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court that found parliament had acted illegally by electing him to the post in August. In March 2011, the then prime minister, Michael Somare, left the country to receive treatment for a heart condition. His family announced that he was standing down from politics three months later. Parliament deemed the post of prime minister to be vacant and in August last year, elected O’Neill, with a majority of 70 votes to 24, to replace acting Prime Minister Sam Abal.

On his return to the country, Somare challenged this move, claiming he never had any intention of stepping down. The court called for O’Neill to step down and for Somare to be immediately reinstated, but O’Neill refused. Backed by parliament and the civil service, O’Neill has been effectively running the country, despite a failed military coup that attempted to restore Somare to power in late January. On 20 March, the government passed a law empowering parliament to suspend judges it views as biased. This move follows the arrest of PNG’s chief justice at the beginning of March on charges of obstructing a police investigation.


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Amnesty International