IT MAY not be the best time for Papua New Guinea's ruling party to face the voters as the nation dependent on commodity exports feels the pinch of low prices.
Economic growth has slowed from the breakneck 13.3% pace of 2014 to less than 3% last year and is expected to remain around that level in 2017.
But prime minister Peter O'Neill says he is "reasonably confident" about prevailing at the polls despite the headwinds.
"Nobody can predict the outcome of the election" scheduled for 24 June to 8 July, O'Neill told the Nikkei Asian Review on Tuesday during a brief stay in Hong Kong. Already, 2,821 candidates have signed up to vie for 111 seats in the unicameral legislature.
The People's National Congress headed by O'Neill now holds 54 seats and leads the coalition government. The prime minister predicts that the PNC will not win a majority but "will be the largest party" once again to form another coalition.
He based his confidence on the "delivery of policies and progresses" and his government having kept "every commitment that we have made."
In the keynote address at a Credit Suisse-sponsored investment conference, O'Neill emphasised that his government has "passed the highest number of laws" and achieved political stability on his watch since August 2011 and after the last general election in 2012.
But questions are being raised about the state of the South Pacific country.
One is on peace and order. Just a few days ago, rioting was reported in the capital city of Port Moresby. O'Neill dismissed the recent fire and looting as an "isolated case."
While acknowledging the incident, he said the looting "wasn't a planned" event and that the fire was caused by cooking rather than arson by looters. The widely reported case has been "blown out of proportion," the prime minister said.
Another worry surrounds corruption. O'Neill pushed back harder on this front, arguing that the perception of his country as corrupt is "overstated."
He asked critics to produce "tangible evidence to substantiate their claims" and said that if there are any cases of corruption, the victims "should report to the authority," where he is confident in the anti-corruption apparatus enhanced during his tenure.
O'Neill also pointed to other countries in the region, where corrupt individuals have "acquired enormous wealth at the expense of their people," while emphasising that no one in Papua New Guinea has attained that level of wealth through corrupt means since the country became independent in 1975.
Papua New Guinea ranked 136th out of 176 countries in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International. It scored 28 on a 100-point scale, with zero as the most corrupt.
While the country improved slightly from the previous year's 25, it still ranked on a par with Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan and just under Iran, Nepal and Kazakhstan.
O'Neill blamed the gap in perceptions on media reports that "unjustly judge a country." He urged reporters and commentators in the international media to go to Papua New Guinea and see the facts on the ground.