But, as counting continues, the People’s National Congress of caretaker Prime Minister Peter O’Neill remains the party with the most votes.
As at 6pm yesterday, according to the Electoral Commission’s website and The National’s own data collected after the declaration of winners, PNC leads in 17 seats, eight more than the next best-placed PNG Party which leads in nine electorates.
The Triumph Heritage Empowerment (T.H.E) Party of Don Polye is next with eight.
The National Alliance party of deposed prime minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare is next with seven followed by the United Resources Party and People’s Party who each have four leaders and then the People’s Progress Party and People’s United Assembly who each have candidate leading in their respective electorates.
Independent candidates form a strong bloc, leading in 12 electorates. If the trend continues and they win a fair number of seats, they could dictate the shape of the next government.
However, although independents form the highest number of people contesting the elections, none has been declared a winner as yet.
The party which wins the most seats in the 111-member parliament is given the first opportunity by the governor-general, following the return of writs on or before July 27, to form the new government.
Of the men jostling to lead the country after the elections, O’Neill had retained his seat and was joined last Friday by Polye who served O’Neill as treasury minister.
The others declared are Paul Isikiel (PNC), Douglas Tomuriesa (T.H.E Party), Patrick Pruaitch and John Simon (NA), Byron Chan (People’s Progress Party), Ronnie Knight (New Generation Party) and Paul Tiensten (People’s United Party).
The focus this week will undoubtedly switch to the fortunes of some of the other leading players such as O’Neill’s deputy and PNG Party leader Belden Namah, who had not led at any stage of the progressive count in his Vanimo-Green electorate.
However, PNG Party secretary Pat Kassman expected Namah to be returned on the first count and was confident the leader’s declaration would get the party’s momentum going.
Further declarations this week would certainly give an indication on the groups with the potential to coalesce and form government by the end of this month