Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Constitutional crisis in PNG

Last year, Papua New Guinea's long-serving Prime Minister Michael Somare was ousted due to absence. The removal was immediately challenged in the courts, and today the Supreme Court has declared it unconstitutional and ordered Somare's reinstatement. But at the same time, Parliament rammed through retrospective validating legislation declaring that the removal was legal; they also seem to have advised the Governor-General (who of course complied) to revoke Somare's leave of absence as an MP and declare his seat vacant - making it difficult for him to resume his position. So, PNG now seems to have two Prime Ministers, one backed by the courts, and one by Parliament, though the Governor-General seems to be backing the former for now. As for the current (previous?) government, they'll be facing contempt of court charges for their blatant attempts to interfere with the judicial process.

This could go in all sorts of unpleasant directions (there has already been an armed standoff outside Government House, and reports of gunfire). The safest, of course, would be for Somare to resume his position and face an immediate confidence vote (seeing as he can't govern without the backing of Parliament anyway). The question is whether PNG will take that path, or whether one faction or another will start a coup.