2 Aug 2011

PNG has new PM as position declared vacant and govt MPs defect

7:52 pm on 2 August 2011

Papua New Guinea has a new Prime Minister after disgruntled government MPs joined forces with the Opposition to have the Prime Minister's office declared vacant.

The newly-bolstered opposition successfully moved to have the vacancy declared because of veteran Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare's prolonged absence from parliament.

The Works and Transport Minister Peter O'Neil then won a vote on the floor of parliament and was elected prime minister.

Mr O'Neill, an MP from the Southern Highlands, was elected by 70 votes to 24.

He had recently been demoted from the role of Treasurer after outgoing acting Prime Minister Sam Abal took over from the ailing Sir Michael whose "retirement" was announced by his family in June on health grounds.

Sir Michael has been in Singapore since April to receive medical treatment for his heart condition.