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Vanuatu

Five PMs contest one election

It will be an interesting election in Vanuatu when the nation goes to the polls in two weeks time as five former prime ministers have lined up to contest seats in an attempt to return to power.

The Vanuatu parliament was dissolved in August after a recommendation from then prime minister Bob Loughman. This was a move by Mr Loughman to escape the vote of no confidence which was being brought against him.

Four of the five former prime ministers also have a chance to be in parliament at the same time as they are contesting different seats.

Serge Vohor is contesting in Santo, Charlot Salwai and Ham Lini in Pentecost, Sato Kilman in Malekula, and Joe Natuman. The caretaker prime minister Bob Loughman is standing on Tanna.

Vanuatu PM Bob Loughman (R) with Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama. Pic- Fijian Government
Vanuatu PM Bob Loughman (R) with Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama. Picture: Fijian Government

The dissolution of parliament has also led to new political parties, one led by Mr Vohor. He will contest for his newly established political party Pikinini blong Ground Movement, which means Children of Land Movement.

They are among over 300 applicants to contest the snap election on October 13 for 52 seats in the national parliament. The Electoral Commission is undertaking a screening process of the applicants to check whether they are qualified to run in the election.

Deputy principal electoral officer Gary Tavoa said any applicant with outstanding debt with any government agency, longer than a period of two months, would fail to meet the eligibility criteria.

The Vanuatu Parliament House in Port Vila. Picture Vanuatu Parliament
The Vanuatu Parliament House in Port Vila. Picture: Vanuatu Parliament

The Commission will publish the names of the qualified candidates this Saturday. According to former opposition leader Ralph Regenvanu, the people of Vanuatu want a change in government and a new prime  minister.

Mr Loughman, being the caretaker prime minister, had already started electioneering after the parliament was dissolved. Vanuatu’s election history shows that whenever a snap election has been called, the nation chooses a new prime minister.

The people of Vanuatu seemed to be wanting change. John Garae of Port Vila said he wanted a government which looked after its people.

“I really did not have confidence in the former government. There was too much discrepancies and they were not transparent enough,” he said.

Allisan Tabi said she had not decided who she was going to vote for.

“I will see which of the candidates in my constituency promises what. I want to hear; how they will elevate our life and cut down the cost of living,” she said.

The Electoral Commission will use the same list of voters from the last elections and there is a concern that many voters who have since come of age will not be able to cast their votes as there is not enough time for a voter registration drive. Elections are scheduled to take place on October 13.

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