With its highly volatile political conditions, Vanuatu’s recent snap election has been hailed by the Pacific Islands Forum Election Observer Team as peaceful and orderly without any disruptions.
Held on the 13 October the election was contested by six former prime ministers following the dissolution in August to avoid a vote of no confidence in the government.
While concluding its mission the PIF team consisted of Cook Islands Election official Ms Veronica Papatua, Pacific Civil Society rep Ms Louchrisha Hussain, and CEO of the Pacific Citizens Constitutional Forum, supported by staff of the Forum Secretariat.
As part of its role the team observed pre-enabling election activities in Port Vila before they were deployed to the constituency of Tanna on election day, to observe the opening, polling and close of polling, and the counting after.
The observer team acknowledged the ongoing verification phase of the election while reserving its observations of the 2022 snap election until all due processes have been completed.
A mission report will be developed by the observer team which will capture its observations and recommendations. This will be submitted to the government and Election Commission of Vanuatu for their consideration before the report will be made publicly available shortly after.
The Forum Team has lauded the government and Electoral Commission of Vanuatu for availing them the opportunity to join a number of other international observers in Vanuatu to observe the election, a practice that Vanuatu has shown consistently over the years as a demonstration of good governance.
Local media reported that a total of 49 international election observers, including two politicians from Australia, and Chinese and Japanese embassy officials, travelled to the country’s polling stations across the archipelago to observe elections.
In June this year opposition leader Ralph Regenvanu of the GJP Party accused Prime Minister Bob Loughman of attempting to alter the Vanuatu constitution in June by proposing a shift from a four-year to five-year election cycle and limiting the chief justice to a five-year term.
Vanuatu’s parliament was dissolved in August and court documents show an application to have the dissolution overturned was supported by 27 out of 52 lawmakers, but was dismissed by the Supreme Court last month.
These changes left the government in caretaker mode and as a result Vanuatu was unable to send a leader to the White House for a meeting between Pacific Islands and Joe Biden, where the United States pledged more cooperation to stave off China’s “economic coercion”, and was instead represented by its U.S. ambassador.
Vanuatu’s electoral office was aided by the Australian Government which lent finance, a military transport aircraft and two helicopters to assist the electoral office transport ballot boxes and staff to 18 constituencies across almost a dozen islands.
The country’s efforts in holding the snap elections in the midst of superpower contests in the Pacific region drew global attention into the event.