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PNG founding father Somare elected new PM

Former PM Sir Mekere Morauta pulled out of the race at the weekend  

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (CNN) -- Papua New Guinea finally has a new prime minister and government, more than seven weeks after national polling began.

In the first meeting of parliament since the election process began, members elected elder statesman Sir Michael Somare to his third stint in the top job.

Somare was the nation's first leader following the Pacific nation's gaining independence from Australia in 1975, and ruled again from 1982 until to 1985.

He replaces Sir Mekere Morauta who ruled himself out of the prime ministerial race at the weekend.

While Somare won a solid endorsement for the post, he will need all his political skills to restore political and economic stability to PNG. Asia
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His National Alliance party won the most seats -- 19 -- in the 109 seat parliament.

But the vote for prime minister was boycotted by Morauta's People's Democratic Movement, which ran second with 12 parliamentary seats.

Somare received 88 votes to win the top job.

The national poll, which began on June 15, was fraught with violence and allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation and the destruction of ballot boxes, particularly in the remote Highlands area.

As many as 30 people are believed to have been killed in election-related disturbances.

Armed riot police have surrounded the parliament buildings in the capital, Port Moresby, amid fears the prime ministerial decision will prompt further violence.

The irregularities surrounding the poll in some areas delayed the declaration of a result in PNG, a Pacific nation of 5 million which lies directly to the north of Australia.


It has also prompted many in PNG to call for fresh elections to be held as six seats in the troubled Highlands region have yet to be declared.

While PNG has considerable mineral wealth, poor management, endemic corruption and rampant crime gangs has kept the nation impoverished.

A fractured political system, often based on tribal differences, exacerbates the situation, making economic reforms a difficult process.

During his time at the helm, former prime minister Morauta implemented a policy of fiscal restraint, including cuts to the armed forces.

This led to a series of mutinies by some soldiers.




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