People’s National Congress Powers Ahead in PNG Election 2012
With counting of votes in various stages in 71 of the 111 seats (63%) in our National Parliament, it is a good time to pause and reflect on the progress of political parties around the country.
So far, the best performing political party has been Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress (PNC) which has claimed two seats, Peter O’Neill in Ialibu-Pangia and Charlie Benjamin in Manus Regional; and very closely lost out in Manus Open to New Generation Party’s Ronny Knight.
That significant loss, which sees sitting current Member, Minister for Fisheries and PNC strongman Job Pomat removed after one term in parliament, is slightly balanced by PNC claiming Manus Regional for the first time at the expense of Triumph Heritage Empowerment’s (THE) Michael Sapau.
Winning three from three would have been an incredible start for Peter O’Neill.
Despite this, PNC continues to poll strongly and at last count leads in 14 of the 71 seats where voting is currently underway, with National Alliance leading in 10, the all important Independents in 7, PNG Party in 6, THE in 5, People’s Progress Party in 4, People’s Party and Social Democratic Party with 3 apiece, and the remainder split between thirteen parties with eleven leading in only 1 electorate each.
Of the 14 seats which PNC leads in, 7 of the PNC candidates are current Members in the PNC/PNG Party-led coalition, while 7 are non-sitting candidates who are making in-roads in traditionally non-PNC seats.
A closer look at the 7 current Members reveals that 5 of them are current Ministers, and the success of People’s National Congress will largely depend on the performances of these men, and the PNC Members of Parliament representing those electorates where counting has yet to start.
These 8 seats include Central Bougainville (Jimmy Miringtoro), Rigo Open (Ano Pala), Tari Open (James Marape), Alotau Open (Charles Abel), Samarai-Murua Open (Gordon Wesley), Milne-Bay Regional (John-Luke Critten) and Ibonggu Open (Francis Awesa).
Based on the counting results so far, two of these 8 seats are guaranteed winners for Peter O’Neill – with James Marape and Charles Abel most certainly returning to parliament. In addition, PNC will most certainly also win one new seat with former Southern Highlands’ Administrator William Powi in prime position to win Southern Highlands Regional.
Although it is still early days for the rest of the 8 seats, PNC candidates have already opened up leads of more than 1000 votes in Central Bougainville and Rigo. This is a positive sign for the sitting members.
But despite a 3000 vote lead in Imbonggu, I am not so confident with Francis Marus’ chances in returning to Parliament. In addition, both Samarai-Murua and Milne-Bay Regional are two seats under real threat to be lost by PNC.
Losses in these two seats though, which current Members represent, will be made up by PNC doing very well in, and standing a good chance in winning a handful of non-traditional PNC seats.
Most notably, PNC is doing incredibly well in Nipa-Kutubu (Pesab Komal) and Markham Open (Paul Isikiel), and if PNC does manage to pull off wins in both these electorates, it will be at the expense of Belden Namah’s PNG Party which currently holds both seats. These two seats will be very important in terms of the dynamics between these two current coalition partners.
With counting of votes starting in 63% of all PNG parliamentary seats, the initial signs are promising for Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress.
Having won two seats already, and with PNC most certainly going to win three of the current 14 it leads as I identify above, the chances for PNC setting the foundation for coming away from Election 2012 with the most seats are good.
Once counting begins in PNG’s remaining 40 seats, and as counting progresses in the current 71, we will have a much clearer picture of the surrounding political environment – particularly in regards to Sir Michael Somare’s National Alliance, Belden Namah’s PNG Party and Don Polye’s Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party.
But right now, People’s National Congress is in the box seat.