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Papua New Guinea court rules Somare is leader

AP News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2011 6:15 PM
Papua New Guinea court rules Somare is leader

The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has ruled the election of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is unconstitutional and restored his predecessor Sir Michael Somare as the South Pacific nation's leader.

The decision was handed down in a 3-2 ruling on Monday hours after O'Neill's government passed a series of retrospective laws legalizing its decision to dump Somare from office while he was in Singapore recovering from a heart condition.

The court found that there was no vacancy in the office of prime minister on Aug. 2 and that the vote of 70 to 24 lawmakers that elected O'Neill was illegal.

The court also said that 75-year-old Somare was still a member of parliament, overturning a mid-August decision by Speaker Jeffery Nape to unseat him.

Somare had been in Singapore for five months between late March and Sept. 6, when he returned to parliament after undergoing three heart operations. He is expected to be sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin said he was "deeply concerned" by political developments in the former Australian colony.

"There are heightened political tensions within Port Moresby with, as it were, two alternative prime ministers," Rudd told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Tuesday.