Somare Government Installed in Papua New Guinea Amid Stalemate

Posted December 14th, 2011 at 4:15 am (UTC-5)
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The political stalemate continued Wednesday in Papua New Guinea, where the new government of deposed Prime Minister Michael Somare has been sworn in, even as his rival refuses to follow a court order to step down.

The dispute began Monday, when the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Somare had been illegally removed from power earlier this year while he was in Singapore undergoing a series of heart surgeries.

But Mr. Somare's successor, Peter O'Neill, insists that he is the country's legitimate prime minister, having been elected by parliament in August.

Parts of the capital, Port Moresby, experienced a heavy police presence Wednesday. Though there have been no reports of violence, Tuesday lawmakers loyal to Mr. O'Neill stormed the office of the country's governor-general – a supporter of Mr. Somare.

Elections are currently scheduled for June 2012, but some observers say that early elections may be the best way to solve the political standoff that has left two governments in place in Papua New Guinea.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for both sides to exercise restraint, saying the crisis should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with the country's constitution.

Mr. Somare led Papua New Guinea to independence in 1975 and was serving his third term as prime minister when he took a medical leave of absence in December 2010.