Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, is virtually unknown in Australia. The lazy excuse is that the country’s leadership changes so often it’s hard to keep up. But that’s not actually true. In the years since the country gained its independence from Australia in September 1975, it has had eight prime ministers to Australia’s ten. (There is a caveat though: PNG leaders tend to retain enough residual parliamentary support to make a comeback, which Michael Somare did twice, and Julius Chan and Paias Wingti once each.)
In the contest for the leadership — Papua New Guinea’s greatest of games, narrowly pipping the country’s other obsessively followed battle, rugby league state-of-origin matches — the key ingredients include:
An origin story. Which region does the candidate come from, or most identify with? Papua, the Islands, the New Guinea mainland, the Highlands, or else the new category, the urban population in Port Moresby, Lae and other substantial cities? The Highlands is by far the most populous region, votes the largest bloc of parliamentarians, and has become the most resource-rich area.
Personality politics. Can the candidate win trust in small-group interactions?
Please click here to read the full “Another round in PNG’s great game” article published at Inside Story, written by Griffith Asia Institute Industry Fellow, Rowan Callick.