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Papua New Guinea: new leader, same policies

The man who led Papua New Guinea into self-government in 1972 and independence in 1975, Michael Somare, has been ousted as the country's prime minister.

But the change was peaceful, and in the best traditions of the parliamentary democracy that the former colonial power, Australia, tried to instill into the new nation of 3 million people that lies just to its north.

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Mr. Somare was defeated in a vote of confidence in the country's House of Assembly, following a realignment of parties and independents.

The new Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, has considerable ministerial experience, having been Mr. Somare's deputy from 1972 to 1978. Sir Julius was a highly successful minister for finance. His foreign and domestic policies are not expected to be very different from those of the Somare government.

Most of the new Cabinet ministers have served under Mr. Somare at various times in the past five years.

Mr. Somare lost the vote of confidence in the parliament by 57 votes to 49. Earlier this year he had demoted two ministers and sacked two others, thus giving the opposition groups the numbers they needed to defeat him.

The new prime minister has a six-month period to weld the five parties and several independents who gave him his majority into a disciplined government. Under the Papua New Guinea Constitution another no-confidence motion cannot be introduced into the parliament until this time has elapsed.

Ousted Prime Minister Somare is confident that he will eventually win power again following a further realignment of forces in the House of Assembly. No election is due for several years.

Sir Julius attributed his victory to general nonperformance by the government and discontent within it. But he agrees that the country as a whole is prosperous.


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