5 Aug 2002

PNG 's parliament due to elect Prime Minister today

11:22 am on 5 August 2002

Papua New Guinea's politicians have gathered in Port Moresby ready to elect a new Prime Minister later today.

The parliament will first vote on whether Sir Michael Somare, whose National Alliance party has the highest number of winning candidates, should be prime minister.

The incumbent leader , Sir Mekere Morauta, bowed out of the race yesterday.

Sir Mekere, whose party was battered at the polls, says he felt he was the major obstacle to the People's Democratic Movement attempting a tie up with independent MPs to form a new government.

The move was expected to clear the way for fellow party member and former prime minister, Paias Wingti, to lead the PDM.

At least 30 have died during the seven-week poll, which was marred by not only violence but voter intimidated and the theft of ballot boxes.

As a result, the 109-seat parliament will sit without six members from the Southern Highlands.

Soldiers have been deployed to provide security at the national parliament in the tightest operation since the Sandline mercenary crisis of 1997.