The first is getting elected from the huge field of aspirants who believe – because of civic duty, personal pride or desire for self-aggrandisement – they have heard the clarion call of the people.
In February 1964, as a very young man recently arrived in the then TPNG, I went on a three week election patrol through rural villages south of the highlands town of Chuave [see photo].
Most of the votes cast in the 'whisper ballot' reflected tribal and clan loyalties rather than being a response to espoused programs of national or even local action.
In subsequent years, elections have developed a more commercial tone – the transaction being one of loyalty offered combined with gifts given with the medium of exchange being that precious vote.
And with fields so large, even second, third and fourth preference votes can be of great value in determining a winner – which candidates well understand and build into their campaigning and spending.
In such circumstances, people of substantial wealth are hugely advantaged.
And rich politicians also benefit when, having been duly elected, they set down in Port Moresby for the negotiating, bargaining and blackguarding that are part of the process of determining who will rule PNG for the next five years.
For, while PNG has a long tradition of political parties, party loyalty can be ephemeral and unreliable. The period between the declaration of polls and the first day of the new parliament is crucial as the political horse-trading reaches fever pitch.
Newly-elected members, once prevailed upon to cast their lot with a particular group, are even barricaded in luxurious quarters to prevent rivals from persuading them to take another tack.
Which brings me to Belden Namah - an interesting man of toughness, resolve, cunning, volatility, belligerence and wealth.
An ex-Army captain imprisoned for sedition for six years in the aftermath of the Sandline affair (he opposed the use of mercenaries), Namah subsequently deployed his intellect and guile to persuade West Sepik landowners to entrust him with logging concessions from which he has made a lot of money indeed.
When he was later elected to parliament (for the seat of Vanimo-Green) in 2007, even though a first time MP, he was made Minister for Forestry. It was like the fox promoted CEO of the chook pen. Then, after last August’s ‘coup’ against Michael Somare, Namah became deputy prime minister.
His political career has been anything but uncontroversial – just in the last few months he has challenged constitution, judiciary, parliament and his prime minister.
He was aboard the notorious Falcon business jet intercepted by Indonesian fighter aircraft late last year about the same time he was allegedly involved in propositioning a male staff member at Sydney’s casino, an act which he has denied and on which the NSW Police are still to report.
Namah is an extraordinarily complex man of formidable personality and enormous wealth.
When all of these attributes combine, and in light of what we have observed of him, they suggest the new parliamentarians in PNG (and that may be as many as half the total number) are in for a turbulent time as they gather in Port Moresby to sort out the shape of the next national government.
Namah has already started his campaign against incumbent prime minister Peter O’Neill and made it clear he’s over being kingmaker and wants the top job. “The only way for me to run this country is to become a king myself,” he remarked earlier this week.
Will those new MPs be able to withstand the onslaught of tough-mindedness boosted by the prospect of financial advantage?
The process will certainly sort out the nation-builders from the self-promoters.
Let’s hope there are enough of the former to give PNG the leadership it needs.