SYDNEY – The parliament of Papua New Guinea elected on Thursday a new prime minister amid a political crisis that led to the resignation of the former leader.
James Marape, who was finance minister, got 101 votes against the eight secured by Mereke Moruata from the 111 members of parliament.
Outgoing prime minister Peter O’Neill, who announced his intention to resign over the weekend and formally submitted his resignation on Wednesday, was also nominated but declined the candidacy after initially accepting it, local channel EMTV reported.
Marape, of the O’Neill-led People’s National Congress, stepped down as finance minister seven weeks ago owing to disagreements with the economic policies of the government, deteriorating services and the handling of the multi-billion dollar gas exploration agreement with France’s Total and the United States’ ExxonMobil.
The signing of the contract caused a rift between members of the government and several of them then quit, which further strengthened the opposition, leaving O’Neill, who took office in 2011, with a minority in parliament.
Papua New Guinea, an impoverished nation of 7 million people and rich in natural resources, has a long history of corruption, of which O’Neill has been accused by his adversaries.
No political party in the country has ever achieved an absolute majority since its independence in 1975.