The Australian prime minister canceled a trip to Papua New Guinea Saturday as political turmoil in the Pacific nation cast doubt on the leadership of the ruling government.
Scott Morrison will meet his PNG counterpart on Wednesday but agreed to postpone the trip following a request from Prime Minister James Marape, a spokesman for Morrison said.
The decision came after several senior PNG ministers, including the deputy prime minister, defected to the opposition on Friday and voted to suspend parliament – marking a challenge to Marape’s leadership next month.
Morrison intends to visit the country on his way back from a visit with Japanese leader Yoshihide Suga next week.
Since May last year, Marape has ruled through a divided coalition.
The law blocked any challenges to his rule for the first 18 months but that period ended in late November.
Following the suspension of parliament, the country’s opposition said they had gained enough support to strike a vote of no-confidence against Marape when parliament resumed on December 1.
But the leader tried to defuse the challenge on Friday – calling it “normal PNG-style parliamentary business.”
He still has 52 MPs to support him and is in negotiations to secure the 56 members needed for a majority before the return of parliament, he added.
Papua New Guinea’s politics is very fluid and since independence, no party has ever held an outright majority, with parties relying on coalitions to govern.