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By HELEN TARAWA and MALUM NALU
THE nation awaits the decision today of the 105 members-elect of Parliament on which of the two political groups is to be in government for the next five years.
Yesterday, the group led by Peter O’Neill and his People’s Congress Party counted 59 on its side.
Their rivals led by the National Alliance Party and Pangu Pati listed 46.
There are six writs yet to be returned to Government House to make the full 111.
But Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato said they could be returned later. Today, the formation of the new government will proceed.
“The writs that I have received and accepted are the ones that I’ll return to the Clerk of Parliament,” he said.
“About 90 per cent of the writs are being returned and there are still provisions under the Organic Law that allows me to extend (the return of writs).”
He said the Supreme Court pointed out this  week that he had the discretion to extend the return of writs.
He said even without the six writs yet to be returned, “it is still legitimate because more than half of the (111) writs” had been returned.
Both groups had returned yesterday from their respective retreats at Alotau and Kokopo.
Their priority today is to elect the prime minister – the one who commands the most support in the House. It means today that the nominated person who is supported by at least 53 members will be PM.
Gamato said the anniversary date (July 28, 2012 when the writs for the ninth Parliament was returned) required him to return the writs quickly. It is the cut-off mark so that Parliament can be called.
“We cannot go beyond the anniversary date hence the return of writs last Friday is legal and proper.
“I must make it clear that I as Electoral Commissioner am restricted by the anniversary of the current term of parliament and requirements to call Parliament within time,” Gamato said. On the invitation last Friday to the PNC to form government, he said it was the right thing to do.
“Let me make it clear that under the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and candidates, it is the responsibility of the electoral commissioner to advise the head of state on the number of political parties and the parties that win the most number of seats on the date fixed for the return of writs –  which was last week,” Gamato said.
He said the Registrar of Political Parties Dr Alphonse Gelu, as an administrator of the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates, should have advised the Electoral Commissioner to advise the head of state.
“It was surprising that he failed to liaise with me about the whole process.
“As a result, I had to advise the head of state on July 28, 2017, to invite the party with most numbers of seats to form the government.
“At that time last Friday, July 28, 81 writs were returned to the governor-general which is more than half of the 111 seats in Parliament.
“I had to consult the State lawyers, including the secretary for Justice and attorney-general, plus the solicitor-general before returning those 81 writs.
“The last day fixed for the return of writs as extended by the head
of state was last Friday,” Gamato said.
“I am still returning writs and will still allow those electorates to continue counting and make their declarations.”

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