This Discussion Paper examines political instability in Papua New Guinea (PNG) by tracking the country’s changes of government and discussing both the constitutional amendments made to prolong the life of governments and the Supreme Court’s responses to these amendments. It also discusses the importance of ministerial tenure for government continuity and effective public administration.

To date, discussion and analysis in PNG has focused on changes in government instead of changes in ministers, which has escaped the purview of reforms on parliamentary instability. The degree of ministers’ ‘continuity’, namely the appointment of individual ministers from a collapsed government to the next government under a new PM, is also discussed.

The analysis suggests that parliamentary instability is a complex issue, and that reforms to improve parliamentary instability should be evidence-based and supported by research. The limited durations of ministers in PNG over the 40-year period covered here highlights this factor as a potent challenge to good governance and effective public administration.


Publication date
13 December 2016
Henry Ivarature
Number of pages




Executive summary                    

1. Introduction  

2. Changes of governments in Papua New Guinea              

3. Papua New Guinea’s national government                     

4. Amending the Constitution to prolong the life of governments, and Supreme Court responses

5. The ‘Integrity law’ seeks to keep parties together             

6. The concept of ministerial tenure                      

7. Contextualizing ministerial tenure in Papua New Guinea              

8. Ministerial tenure in Papua New Guinea, 1972–2012                   

Conclusions and policy recommendations              


About the author                       

About International IDEA                      

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Unravelling Parliamentary Instability: Ministerial Durations in Papua New Guinea, 1972–2012

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