PNG's leader defiant as lawmakers desert government

Port Moresby (AFP) –


Papua New Guinea's prime minister is staring down a leadership challenge after a revolt of coalition members shut down parliament Friday.

The country's opposition voted to suspend parliament after a number of government members -- including the deputy prime minister and several senior ministers -- defected, setting the scene for a leadership challenge next month.

The opposition said they had secured the numbers needed to win a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister James Marape slated for December 1.

Since May last year, Marape has governed through a fractious coalition. Legislation blocks any challenge to his government for the first 18 months but that period expires at the end of November.

The leader told media in Port Moresby that he was confident he would survive any challenge.

"What happened this morning is normal PNG style parliamentary business," he said.

He had 52 members of parliament in support and was in negotiations to secure the 56 needed for a majority before the return of parliament, he added.

"We will do our utmost best to ensure numbers are secured to defuse and defeat an attempt for a vote of no confidence.

"Don't get caught up in this hype," he said.

Papua New Guinea's politics is extremely fluid and since independence no single party has ever held an outright majority, with parties instead relying on coalitions to govern.

The leadership challenge comes ahead of a visit from Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison next week, which both leaders said they still expected to take place.