THE battle lines have been drawn by the two major political parties, National Alliance (NA) and Peoples National Congress (PNC) Party, who have been in love-hate relations since 2011.
They are now emerging as two of the major players in the race to form the next government.
PNC already has two in the basket with the re-election of Tari-Pori MP James Marape and Moresby South MP Justin Tkatchenko. Party leader and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has already gone past the absolute majority mark and will be declared by tomorrow.
Kiriwina-Goodenough MP and Forest Minister Douglas Tomuriesa will also be declared today.
This will bring to a total of four PNC members and 25 other candidates are either running first, second or third in the progressive tally as counting continues around the country.
Meanwhile, as counting continues National Alliance also has a reasonable chance of winning equal number of seats as PNC.
NA has caused a major political coup in not only breaking into the People’s Progress Party (PPP) stronghold of New Ireland Province, but has its candidate Party president Walter Schnaubelt unseating incumbent Namatanai MP and Mining Minister Byron Chan.
There is irony in Schnaubelt’s victory over Byron Chan, his first cousin.
NA Party has taken the lead in Kavieng Open with Ian Ling-Stuckey leading and New Ireland Provincial seat where Michael Singan is challenging Sir Julius Chan.
Besides the three New Ireland seats, NA are well on top in South Bougainville and Nuku in West Sepik, and has taken the lead in Wewak Open with Jim Simatab leading the progressive counts. Others with a good chance are Robert Igara for Milne Bay Regional, Misty Baloiloi for Esa’ala, Allan Bird for East Sepik Regional and Menyamya, Goroko Open, and Aitape-Lumi, where party leader Patrick Pruaitch looks set to retain his seat.
NA Party candidates are also leading in Gazelle in incumbent MP Malakai Tabar at the last count.
It is certain that these two political giants will have a major influence in the formation of the next government.
Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party has been struggling from the start although it is leading in a couple of seats and its leader Don Polye is running third as at first count.
Meanwhile, petition will not be entertained because polling and counting for the National Election are continuing.
Electoral Commissioner PatiliasGamato said he would not entertain petitions coming from candidates and Electoral Commission officials while these are ongoing.
“My specific instructions are to not entertain petitions; there is a process going on and that is polling and counting which are lectoral processes. Any disputes and petitions will be dealt with after the court of returns.
“Come with evidence and take it to court,” Gamato said.
He said he had received petitions from New Ireland and had responded through the provincial administrator, who is the chairman of the provincial election steering committee.
“Do not interfere with the process with petitions, if there are issues, take them to the court of disputed returns, not before, but after.”
Gamato said that most of the petitions were on the continued efforts to have returning officers and their assistants removed.
“I cannot change a returning officer; the reason is simple, the writs issued by the Head of State are a command to the returning officer, and if I change and bring someone new, that is illegal. Writs are a command and that returning officer must complete their job and return the writs which I return to the Governor-General.
“There is no shortcut and that is the process,” Gamato said.