PNG opposition claims new defections enough to oust PM

Opponents of Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill say they have mustered enough support in Parliament to oust him over a range of grievances including a gas deal with a French company, which critics have questioned.

Political instability is something of a fixture in the resource-rich but poverty-stricken South Pacific nation and O’Neill, who has been leader since 2011, has seen off previous attempts to topple him.

Defections from the ruling coalition have been going on for weeks and on Friday, at least nine members switched sides, according to two ministers who were among them.

“It’ll only be a formality,” defecting Commerce Minister Wera Mori said, referring to what he said would be O’Neill’s removal after Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday.

It is not clear whether Mori and his colleagues would seek to move a no-confidence motion, for which there is a complex procedure, or whether by controlling Parliament they can trigger O’Neill’s resignation.

O’Neill’s office had no immediate comment but has previously expressed confidence he has the necessary numbers to stay leader.