Monday, May 07, 2012

Somare pulls out of election: daughter


Papua New Guinea's "Grand Chief" Michael Somare will not contest elections in June, his daughter said today, ending more than four decades at the centre of the developing nation's political life.

"Grand Chief" Michael Somare

Somare, 76, was expected to face off against his younger rival Peter O'Neill in a national poll seen as a crucial indicator of the future of the Pacific Island nation which is poised on the cusp of a massive resources boom.
"He isn't recontesting," his daughter and spokeswoman Betha Somare told AFP via telephone from Papua New Guinea.
"He's been in politics for 43 years, he's been elected every time, I don't think he has anything else to prove."
Betha Somare said the family supported his move out of politics which comes just days after Somare addressed a fundraiser for his National Alliance party at which he indicated he would contest the polls expected on June 23.
"Many of you are thinking, what's this old man, this damn old man, going to do next," he was quoted as saying on Friday.
"I will campaign strongly for the National Alliance to form a new government for PNG."
But in the speech he also hinted at a political retirement, saying: "After 44 years, as I leave the political stage, I am proud to see our constitution is intact and our country will prevail."
Somare's family have previously urged the veteran, who was PNG's first leader after independence, to step aside and in June 2011 announced he had resigned as prime minister due to ill health while hospitalised in Singapore.
But he recovered and returned to challenge O'Neill, who had been elected by lawmakers as prime minister in Somare's absence, and won the support of the judiciary who said he should be reinstated.
However O'Neill has the support of parliament and remains in power despite the impasse between the two men.
Betha Somare said her father was "very able" but would quit politics once a new leader of the National Alliance was chosen in coming weeks.
"As a family, we're also encouraging him not to stand," she said.
"I think that there are things that he can do outside of politics."
Impoverished PNG has been struggling to throw off its reputation as a politically dysfunctional and often lawless nation, and has a multi-billion investment led by US major ExxonMobil to develop a LNG project underway. – AFP

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