Vanuatu polls set to deliver shakeup: reports

Wellington (AFP) –


The Vanuatu political landscape appeared to be in for a shakeup, reports said Saturday, following a snap election called after more than a quarter of MPs were jailed in a corruption scandal.

Unofficial results from Friday's vote indicated a number of long-serving politicians, including former justice minister Robert Bohn and former parliament speaker Philip Boedoro, were set to lose their seats, according to news media reports.

The official results may not be available until early next week after all ballots from outlying islands have been taken to the capital Port Vila for counting, Vanuatu Daily Post journalist Jonas Cullwick told AFP.

Writing in the Post, Cullwick said newcomers "make up most of the provisional results" he had received.

Fourteen MPs from the 52-seat parliament, including the deputy prime minister, were jailed last year in a corruption scandal which put the international spotlight on the integrity of Vanuatu lawmakers.

The political breakdown in Port Vila follows a period of instability with four changes of prime ministers in the past four years.

More than 260 candidates from 36 parties took part in the elections on Friday with many of the parties formed in the wake of the scandal.

None of the parties were contesting more than 26 seats, however, meaning Vanuatu was set to emerge with a coalition government.

"This election may herald generational change in Vanuatu politics," Anna Kirk, a research associate in the Melanesia Program at Sydney's Lowy Institute think-tank, wrote on Friday.

"What is certain is that a new coalition government will assume power in Vanuatu as no one party can win sufficient votes to govern in their own right."

The constitutional crisis erupted last year when the 14 lawmakers were convicted on bribery charges and hastily tried to pardon themselves.

President Baldwin Lonsdale was overseas at the time and restored the convictions on his return, vowing "to clean up the mess".

The original bribery allegations centred on payments of 35 million vatu ($312,000) made by Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses to 13 other politicians while they were all in opposition.

Vanuatu, which gained independence in 1980 and has an estimated population of more than 270,000, is still recovering from a deadly category five storm in March that destroyed homes and crops and contaminated water supplies.