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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 03:26 GMT 04:26 UK
PNG chooses new prime minister
Sir Michael Somare in 1985
Sir Michael Somare has achieved a third term
Parliament in Papua New Guinea has elected veteran politician Sir Michael Somare prime minister for the third time.

Sir Mekere Morauta
Morauta's party failed to convince the voters
In a session held under tight security, the 66-year-old won majority backing, even though his own National Alliance only holds 19 of the 109 seats in parliament.

His main rival, Sir Mekere Morauta, withdrew from the running on Sunday, and decided not to try and retain the post he had held since 1999.

At least 25 people died during the elections, which were marred by allegations of vote-rigging.

Six seats for deputies from the unstable Southern Highlands region remain empty.

Six candidates have declared themselves winners, but the electoral commission has ordered fresh elections, due to irregularities.

Social pain

Sir Mekere's People's Democratic Movement won only 12 seats at the elections.

The former central banker had been prime minister for three years, and had proved popular with the international community.

However, his efforts at rooting out corruption and reforming the economy caused social hardship, and half his ministers failed to retain their seats at the election.

Soon after the session began, another former prime minister, Bill Skate, was elected parliamentary speaker.

He is an ally of Sir Michael and his election indicated that Sir Michael had gathered enough support to be elected.

Sir Michael assembled the backing of up to 70 deputies in an informal seven-party coalition.

Independence leader

Known as "The Chief", Sir Michael Somare became chief minister of a democratically elected government in 1972 as Australia prepared to grant independence.

He was its first prime minister when independence was achieved in 1975.

He served a second term in office in the 1980s, but was twice removed from office in votes of no confidence.

A Commonwealth inquiry is planned into the chaotic election which was wracked by violence.

About 25 people - including candidates - were killed and ballot boxes were stolen in the Southern Highlands.

See also:

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08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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