The Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea yesterday ruled in a 3-2 decision that the election of Peter O'Neill in August was unconstitutional as there was no vacancy in the office of Prime Minister at the time of his election. The court also ruled that Sir Michael Somare, who had been out of the country for health reasons for five months, should be restored to the office of Prime Minister.
Even for the notoriously unpredictable nature of politics in PNG, the events of yesterday were unprecedented. And it's not over yet.
Sir Michael Somare, even as he seeks to be sworn in by the Governor-General, does not have the support of the majority of members of parliament. Peter O'Neill's government yesterday passed amendments to legislation to legalise its actions in August – making it possible to dismiss a Prime Minister if he is absent from the nation for more than three months. Parliament also voted again to elect O'Neill as Prime Minister. But the legality of the parliament's actions is unclear.
Twitter is the best way to follow the dramatic events in PNG from outside the country, using the #PNG hash tag. The ABC's correspondent, Liam Fox, has been doing a sterling job tweeting the facts of the case (see above). For an analysis of what transpired yesterday, it is worth listening to this interview with the ABC's Liam Fox and PNG National Research Institute's Ray Anere.
The Interpreter will have more on this as events unfold.