Asia St: What’s At Stake in Papua New Guinea’s Elections

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What’s At Stake in Papua New Guinea’s Elections

May 4, 2022

Current PNG premier James Marape (left), seen here with his current Australian counterpart Scott Morrison (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

BGA’s Senior Advisor Ian Kemish authored an update on what’s at stake in Papua New Guinea’s coming elections. The update addressed some of the challenges being faced by the country, the potential outcomes and signposts to watch for businesses.

Context

  • Political tensions are simmering in Papua New Guinea after the government delayed the start of the country’s highly anticipated general election by two weeks. The writs will now be issued on May 12 to kick off the nomination process, with polling to begin on July 9 and finish on July 22.
  • The election will be hotly contested. The stakes are high, particularly since polls are coming in the wake of the pandemic and with the economy under pressure.

Significance

  • The election will determine how PNG manages a vast array of challenges. These include managing the economic fallout from COVID-19, vaccine mandate protests, growing inflation and unemployment, widespread poverty, the issue of Bougainville independence and advancing resource project deals critical to the country’s growth.
  • Incumbent Prime Minister James Marape has the advantage, but the outcome is still uncertain. Marape’s party, Pangu, currently has 34 members of Parliament (MPs) — almost three times as many as the second-largest party – though, were Marape to win, the number of MPs he would have after the election would be less certain. Peter O’Neill, former prime minister and head of the People’s National Congress party, is touted as the most likely challenger to Marape, but PNG politics have produced many surprise winners in the past.

Implications

  • If reelected, Marape is likely to continue balancing his “take back PNG” agenda, which seeks a greater sovereign share of private resource projects, with economic reform and attracting investment. O’Neill claims to be more pro-business, but he presided over a no less challenging environment when he was prime minister.
  • The economy is expected to grow in the short term due to election-related spending. However, it will likely stagnate in the second quarter, and businesses should carefully watch how the government manages the vast number of challenges it faces in the coming months.

BGA will continue to keep you updated on developments in Papua New Guinea. If you have any questions or comments, please contact BGA Senior Advisor Ambassador Ian Kemish at ikemish@bowergroupasia.com.