Sunday, April 22, 2012

PNG rebuffs Gillard's poll push

From AFP

PAPUA New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has rebuffed pressure from Australia to hold elections on time.
Peter O'Neill

Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday ratcheted up pressure by contacting Mr O'Neill directly, but he yesterday said the timing of polls was PNG's own business.
Canberra has repeatedly called on PNG to adhere to the June deadline for elections as set out by its constitution.
Ms Gillard's office issued a statement saying the pair "discussed the importance of holding national elections on time" and Ms Gillard had "welcomed Prime Minister O'Neill's statements that he supports the election proceeding on time."
But Mr O'Neill shrugged off the pressure yesterday.
"We appreciate the support of the Australian government, but it is for us to determine where we go with the elections in the coming months," Mr O'Neill told the ABC.
Australia is impoverished PNG's major aid donor and has pledged significant assistance to help the polls proceed, including electoral personnel and aerial capability to help transport ballots across the remote and rugged nation.
The election's timing was thrown into doubt earlier this month when PNG's parliament voted for a six month delay - a decision Mr O'Neill initially supported but later distanced himself from.
There was fresh speculation the June deadline was in doubt on Friday due to an investigation into the electoral commissioner, who is strongly committed to proceeding with the elections on their original date.
Canberra rankled PNG in March by suggesting Australia would "be in the position of having to consider sanctions" if PNG failed to hold elections in June.
In comments he later stepped back from, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Australia would "have no alternative but to organise the world to condemn and isolate" PNG, leading Port Moresby to caution against threatening its independence.
Politics in PNG have been in turmoil since late 2011, when the Supreme Court ruled Mr O'Neill's rise to power - via a parliamentary vote while then-leader Sir Michael Somare was recovering from illness in Singapore - was illegal.
Mr Somare, who has dominated politics in the country for decades, believes he is still the leader of the nation of 6.6 million people, and fresh elections are viewed as a way of resolving the dispute for good.

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