SYDNEY: Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O`Neill formally resigned on Wednesday after losing the support of parliament during weeks of political turmoil in the South Pacific island nation.
O`Neill was met with applause when he announced to parliament in Port Moresby that he had delivered his resignation to Governor-General Bob Dadae on Wednesday morning.
He said it was likely he would be replaced on Thursday, drawing a line under a period of political chaos. Parliament adjourned until 10 a.m. on Thursday (midnight GMT Wednesday) soon after O`Neill finished speaking.
Analysts say the political turbulence could delay resource projects on the drawing board and major energy companies involved in PNG, including Total SA and ExxonMobil Corp, are watching closely.
Political instability is not unusual in the poverty-stricken but resource-rich South Pacific archipelago. However, growing concern over resource benefits not reaching the poor has driven the latest attempts to topple O`Neill.
"It has been my great honour to serve this nation and lead this nation almost for eight years. Unfortunately politics in PNG plays out this way," O`Neill told parliament.
"For the interests of the ongoing political stability and to ensure that we create confidence in the business community and the economy so that we can continue to have social unity in the country, it is important that I vacate this seat so that we can be able to move on," he said.
O`Neill was embraced by supporters and shook hands with opposition lawmakers after addressing parliament.
He had promised to resign on Sunday after a string of defections plunged his leadership into question and cost him his parliamentary majority.
"You have taken a decision that I think your country would be proud of," opposition leader Patrick Pruiatch told parliament. "I think you have responded and you have demonstrated leadership."
Pruiatch is a leading candidate to replace O`Neill.
Parliament can replace O`Neill on its next sitting day once his resignation is accepted by Dadae.
The political uncertainty has knocked almost 5% from shares in Oil Search Ltd, an Australian partner in large liquefied natural gas developments in PNG, since the challenge to O`Neill gained traction on Friday.
However, the head of another development partner, Santos Ltd, dismissed concerns that final investment decisions on LNG expansion could be pushed beyond their 2020 targets.